Contrary to the claims of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), a retired judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Kuldip Singh, on Sunday said the Haryana government “is very much empowered to form a separate, state-level body for management of gurdwaras”. He was reacting to Sunday’s announcement by Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Kaithal to bring a Bill in the assembly on July 11 to form the committee.
The viewpoint by Justice Singh contradicts the stand of the legal team hired by the SGPC. He is of the view that the Punjab Reorganisation Act of 1966 has the provisions for division of the Amritsar-headquartered SGPC that controls the gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. CM Badal, whose party Shiromani Akali Dal controls the SGPC, has termed state government’s move “illegal and unconstitutional”.
But, referring to section 72 of the Act, Justice Singh added that the SGPC and two other entities — the PAU and Panjab University — were to operate in the reorganised states until they constituted their own entities. Also, it is learnt that Justice Singh, who remained president of the World Sikh Council in late 1990s, had categorically told the then president of the SGPC, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, in 1998 that no law could stop Haryana from constituting a separate gurdwara committee. Subsequent to that, SGPC had got extra cautious about issues pertaining to Haryana’s Sikhs and gurdwaras. The Sikhs in Haryana demanded a separate panel, functioning under the SGPC but taking decision independently. That never materialised, and the demand for a full-fledged separate panel got shriller.
In a last-minute crisis-management meeting last week, when Akali leaders from Punjab gave the option of forming a panel under the SGPC, the Haryana Sikh leaders said it was too late, also because the SGPC was not in a position to decide, as its powers had been curtailed temporarily by the Supreme Court after a caveat filed by Sehajdhari Sikhs demanding voting rights in SGPC polls.