The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) could function for the time being with the executive committee constituted in November 2010.
On February 17, the apex court, acting on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the SGPC, had upheld the order given by the union ministry of home affairs (MHA) through a notification of December 17, 2011, to constitute a board of SGPC office-bearers.
On Friday, the Supreme Court modified the February 17 order, empowering the executive committee to discharge its duties.
The apex court’s bench comprising justice RM Lodha and justice HN Gokhle is hearing the case pleaded by advocate Gurminder Singh on behalf of the SGPC.
“The next hearing in the case is fixed for July 26. Till then, the executive committee constituted in November 2010 under the presidentship of Avtar Singh Makkar can discharge duties as per provisions of the Gurdwara Act, 1925,” he said, adding that the apex court had not imposed any stay on the committee which came into being on February 19, 2012, after the SGPC elections of September 18, 2011, through which 170 members were elected afresh.
In the SLP filed on February 6, the SGPC challenged the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court, pronounced on December 20, 2011, quashing the MHA notification of 2003, through which the latter took away voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs.
According to Gurminder, the SGPC demanded that the House of the gurdwara committee be allowed to function as the final decision on the SLP was awaited.
The Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, which is contesting the case against the SGPC and seeking voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs, had also filed caveat in the apex court.
The SGPC claims that a number of issues need to be settled and the budget proposal is to be finalised by March 31, adding that the supreme body of the Sikhs can’t remain non-functional for such a long time.
In the SLP, the SGPC had also pleaded that the legislative intent of the Gurdwara Act is that only pure Sikhs be allowed to vote for the management of the SGPC, the body managing affairs of gurdwaras.
“Also, justifying the role of the MHA, which issued a notification on October 8, 2003, taking away voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs, we quoted Section 72 of the Punjab State Reorganisation Act, 1966, which says that the central government can issue orders pertaining to functioning of the SGPC,” added Gurminder.
The SGPC elections of 2004 and 2011 were held without voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs. The federation challenged the MHA’s notification of 2003 in the high court, which quashed it on December 20, 2011.
The MHA, on December 17, 2011, had issued a notification for allowing the induction of 170 elected members into the gurdwara committee, the co-option of 15 members and also five head priests and head granthi of Harmandar Sahib.
The federation is claiming that Sehajdharis, which form a major chunk of Sikhs, have been denied the right to vote in the SGPC elections.