Haryana governor Jagannath Pahadia who is at the fag end of his term faces the tough task of dealing with the contentious Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014. The bill will be sent to the governor for his assent by the law and legislative department. Pahadia, who in the past has shown that he has a mind of his own, has often refused to toe the state government’s diktat.
Under Article 200 of the Constitution, the governor can either give assent to the bill, withhold his assent or reserve the bill for the consideration of the President. Pahadia, however, cannot return the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014 to the assembly since it is a money bill.
Being a money bill, it has been introduced in the House on the recommendation of the governor.
Pahadia, a former chief minister himself, will have to be sufficiently ensure that the bill does not violate the constitutional provisions or create a conflict in view of divergent views being expressed on the legitimacy of the bill. He may like to take legal opinion on the matter, officials said.
Since Pahadia’s tenure comes to an end this month, his successor – an appointee of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre – may refer the matter for the Presidential assent if Pahadia decided to withhold assent to the bill.
TWO VIEWS WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT
Sources said since already there are two schools of thought in the state government itself, the governor may decide to get a legal opinion on the matter before he decides on whether to give his assent or not.
“The HS Chattha committee has clearly recommended that the bill requires Presidential assent. Moreover, the law department in 2005 also tendered an advice in this regard saying that the Presidential nod would be required of the Bill,” said an official.
A former joint legal remembrancer, Jagdeep Jain, in his advice had said since the effect of the bill would be to divest the existing SGPC of the management and control over the Sikh gurdwaras and their properties in Haryana, it would need the consent of the President.
The bill says all moveable and immoveable gurdwara property belonging to the Punjab Sikh Gurdwara Board would vest in the Haryana committee and the executive board to be constituted under Section 16 of the Haryana bill.
While some legal experts say there was no need for a presidential assent to the bill since the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, was a provincial and not a central legislation, there are others who are of the view that being an inter-state issue the matter would still need the President’s nod. Also, in terms of Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, the union home affairs ministry has amended Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, by way of notifications on several occasions.
NOT A MERE RUBBER STAMP
Governor Pahadia has in the past shown that he has the resolve to deal with difficult situations.
For instance, Pahadia took nine months to firm up his views on the mercy petitions of four murder convicts who were sentenced to life by a Rohtak court in 2003 and recommended for pardon by the council of ministers in May 2013.
The governor, after getting the matter legally examined by the advocate general sent, the mercy petitions back to the council of ministers expressing reservations on the matter.
While referring back the mercy petitions, he recounted the trauma and suffering the victim’s family would have undergone.
It is another matter that he was left with no option but to grant pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution after the cabinet referred the mercy petitions to him for a second time.