Governor Jagannath Pahadia on Monday gave his assent to the contentious Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014. Subsequently, the bill that was passed by the Haryana Assembly on July 11, became a law.
Officials said Pahadia whose tenure ends this month did not deem it appropriate to seek legal opinion on the matter in the light of divergent views on the matter.
Overriding effect on 1925 Act
The act that provides for an overriding effect on other laws says that the provisions of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, which empowers the Amritsar based Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to manage and control Sikh shrines- will cease to have any application within Haryana territory from the date of the commencement of Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Act. However, the Act also provides that any rule made under Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 or regulation framed by the corresponding legislation on the subject shall continue to remain operative in Haryana for the purpose of implementation of this Act till the said rules or regulations are suitably amended or redrafted by Haryana government or Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
Taking over the assets
Consequently, an ad-hoc committee nominated by Haryana government will now take over all the assets of the Gurdwaras, including moveable and immoveable properties. The ad-hoc committee will manage and supervise all the moveable and immoveable assets till elections are held for the establishment of a Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. As per the provisions of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Act, the ad-hoc committee can continue to manage the affairs of Gurdwaras for a maximum period of 18 months till the new Committee is constituted.
Though the taking over of assets looks good on paper, the real test for the government will be in ensuring its smooth execution. With the Amritsar based SGPC bitterly opposed to the move, hostilities between the two sides during the physical take over cannot be ruled out. Director General of Police, SN Vashisht, however, said that it will be ensured that everything gets done as per law. “As per the law, legal rights have been bestowed on the Committee. The police will make sure that law and order is maintained,’’ he said.
The ad-hoc committee will comprise of 41 government-nominated members who will elect their president, vice-president, general secretary, joint secretary and six members in its first meeting. These shall be the members of the Executive Board of the Committee.
However, the ad-hoc committee and executive board will cease to exist after the formation of a new executive committee. After the new elected Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee takes over the charge, the ad-hoc committee will hand over the charge to the newly elected committee.
The Act not only provides for vesting of all moveable and immoveable properties of Gurdwara in the Committee and Executive Board, it also says that all budget estimates, all obligations and liabilities incurred, all contracts entered into and all matters and things sought to be done by, with or for the Punjab Sikh Gurdwara Board shall be deemed to have been made, incurred, entered into or sought to be done by the Committee.
Assets of Gurdwaras
The Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras Management Committee or the Executive Board will send a list of Sikh shrines and properties to the state government for declaring them as historical Gurdwara or a notified Gurdwara or a local Gurdwara. A notification in this regard will be issued by the state government.
Affiliation of local Gurdwaras
As per section 47 of the Act, a registered Singh Sabha may in relation to any local Gurdwara under its control decide by a resolution for affiliating that Gurdwara to the Committee by a three-fourth majority. If the Committee gives its consent, the said Gurdwara would be affiliated to the Committee. Subsequently, all assets and liabilities of the affiliated local Gurdwara and Singh Sabha will thereafter vest in the Committee.