India's Supreme Court orders Hajj subsidy cut

image captionEvery year, about 125,000 Indian Muslims are subsidised to go on the Hajj

India's Supreme Court has barred the government from giving subsidies to Muslim pilgrims going on the Hajj.

The court said the policy was "best done away with" and told the authorities to gradually reduce the subsidy and abolish it in 10 years.

The court also said that the government's "goodwill delegation" to Mecca must not exceed two members. It currently has 30 people.

India provides billions of rupees every year to people going on the Hajj.

Pilgrims apply through the Hajj Committee of India and are offered a concessionary fare on the national airline, Air India.

Every year, about 125,000 pilgrims take the subsidy.

The pilgrims are charged 16,000 rupees ($302; £187) air fare. A regular Delhi-Jeddah flight would cost about double that.

Last month, the government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to restrict the subsidy to one pilgrimage per person.

At the moment, it is available to a Hajj pilgrim once every five years.

The government also said that priority would be given to pilgrims older than 70 and those who had never visited Mecca.