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Court orders Sri Lankan ministry to handle Haj quota

A court in Colombo ruled Monday that the Haj quota of pilgrims in Sri Lanka will be handled by the ministry which deals with Bhuddist and other religious affairs.
The court order was given as a sequel to a dispute between the government Haj committee and a group of travel agents who were interested in taking a larger share of the quota of 2,240 pilgrims allotted to Sri Lanka by the Saudi Ministry of Haj.
In a directive sent to the Sri Lankan missions in Riyadh and Jeddah, Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Sassana and Relgious Affairs , M.K.B Dissanayake has said that as per the court order, the distribution of pilgrims will be handled by the ministry and any interference will be treated as a contempt of the court.
The distribution of pilgrims was done earlier by a team of Muslim officials under the direct supervision of a Muslim minister.
Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice Mohan Peiris on July 14 called on the parties involved in the dispute to settle the matter amicably when the aggrieved parties took legal action against the government’s distribution committee.
The Serendib Haj and Umrah Association had filed a case against the Haj Pilgrims Committee which had distributed the quotas in a biased manner.
The case was subsequently taken before a panel of three Supreme Court Judges.
The Haj Pilgrims Committee of the Religious Affairs Ministry is presided by Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, and its co-president is Deputy Minister Abdul Cader.
This committee is responsible for the distribution of the quota among 90 agents.
In a statement made earlier to Arab News, Minister Fowzie said the island has more than 3 million Muslims and his ministry has so far received more than 7,000 applicants for the forthcoming Haj. He pointed out that Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar had explained the difficulties faced by the Saudi authorities in accommodating a larger number of pilgrims because of the ongoing construction work at the holy sites.

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