Acting on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the Supreme Court on Friday ordered upholding of the order issued by the union ministry of home affairs (MHA) ‑ through a notification dated December 17, 2011 ‑ to constitute a board of SGPC office-bearers.
The court gave six weeks to all respondents to file a reply. The respondents in the case include the MHA, the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation.
The apex court’s bench comprising justice RM Lodha and justice HN Gokhle is hearing the case pleaded by senior advocate Harish Salve and advocate Gurminder Singh on behalf of the SGPC.
In the SLP filed on February 6, the SGPC challenged the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court, pronounced on December 20, quashing the MHA notification of 2003, through which the ministry took away voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs.
According to Gurminder Singh, the SGPC demanded in the SLP that the House be allowed to function as the final decision on the petition was awaited.
The Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, which is contesting the case against the SGPC and demanding voting rights for Sehajdhari Sikhs, has also filed a caveat in the apex court, pleading that they be heard if the SGPC came up with the SLP.
“There are a number of issues which need to be settled. The budget proposal is to be finalised by March 31. The supreme body of the Sikhs can’t remain non-functional for a long time. As the cases pertaining to voting rights are pending, we demanded that the House be allowed to function,” said SGPC secretary Dilmegh Singh.
The SLP also pleaded that the ‘legislative intent’ of the Gurdwara Act, 1925, was that only pure Sikhs be allowed to vote for the management of the SGPC ‑ the body managing affairs of gurdwaras.
“Justifying the MHA role, we quoted Section 72 of the Punjab State Reorganisation Act, 1966, which says that the central government can issue orders pertaining to the functioning of SGPC,” said Gurminder Singh.
The SGPC elections of 2004 and 2011 were held without voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs. The federation challenged the MHA’s notification of 2003 the same year in the Punjab and Haryana high court, which quashed the notification on December 20, 2011.
But the SC order is silent on the fate of the SGPC elections, which took place on September 18, 2011, wherein 170 members were elected.
The MHA, on December 17, 2011, had issued a notification for allowing the induction of 170 elected members into the gurdwara committee, cooption of 15 members and also five head priests and head granthi of Darbar Sahib.
Now, after the SC interim order, another notification is expected from the MHA for electing office-bearers of the SGPC, including the president and 11 members of the executive committee.
Avtar Singh Makkar, SGPC president
In view of the SC interim order, the Centre should allow the election of office-bearers, including the SGPC president. People who are trying to undermine the authority of the supreme body of the Sikhs would not be successful in their ulterior motives.
PS Ranu, president, Sehajdhari Sikh Federation
Fresh SGPC elections should be ordered, restoring voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs. The House elected after the September 18 polls has no popular mandate as about 70 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs were denied voting rights.