The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on Monday described the Bill passed by the Haryana assembly for setting up a separate body to manage Sikh gurdwaras in the state as "blatant constitutional transgression" and "brazen interference in Sikh religious affairs", and urged the Haryana governor to decline assent to the bill.
A deputation of the committee headed by its president Avtar Singh Makkar and comprising SAD leaders, including education minister and party secretary Dr Daljit Singh Cheema and general secretary Harcharan Singh Bains, called on the governor on Monday, and submitted that the bill had been passed in an unconstitutional manner. The delegation requested the governor to seek a clarification regarding reserving the bill for presidential assent.
In their memorandum, the delegation maintained that a state assembly had "no legislative competence" to pass a bill on a subject that is governed by an act of Parliament. "Even after Partition, the gurdwaras which fell in the undivided state of Punjab and PEPSU have continuously been under the jurisdiction of the SGPC by virtue of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925. This scope of jurisdiction has been preserved even after the territorial bifurcation of the state in November 1966 by according the SGPC the status of an inter-state body corporate," said the memorandum.
The bill which "seeks to frame a law in order to exclude notified Sikh gurdwaras from the ambit and jurisdiction of the inter-state body SGPC amounts to illegally usurping and transgressing upon the long-honoured and lawful rights of the SGPC to manage and administer the Sikh gurdwaras located in Haryana. The state assembly does not have the competence to enact and pass the above-mentioned bill".
The action flies in the face of "the constitutional provisions as the field in which the act is sought to be legislated is already occupied by a central legislation". Second, by excluding and transgressing upon the existing jurisdiction of an inter-state body corporate, it is violating the constitutional mandate. Third, the provisions of the present bill are directly in conflict with the existing law in force.
The memo quoted Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, which clearly states that "the power to make law in respect of the SGPC as an inter-state body corporate has been reserved to the Central government only and there is no provision in law for bifurcation of the said body corporate by enacting a state legislation".