Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee(SGPC) has reiterated that Sehajdhari Sikhs, who shave, cut or trim their hair, cannot be recognized as Sikhs for the purpose of grant of electoral rights in SGPC elections and only Keshadhari Sikhs should have the right to vote.
The submission to this effect was made before the Punjab and Haryana high court by Mukhtar Singh on behalf of SGPC in an ongoing case challenging the notification dated October 8, 2003 issued by the union government.
By way of issuing this notification, union ministry of home affairs had amended sections 49 and 92 of the Sikh Gurudwara Act, 1925, also barring Sehajdhari Sikhs from casting their votes in SGPC elections. Mukhtar Singh informed that in keeping with the tenets of Sikh religion and the importance of keeping 'Khalsa' purity, which includes keeping of unshorn hair, these modifications were suggested by the SGPC in its meeting held on March 30, 2001.
A memorandum in this respect was presented by Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of SGPC to the then union home minister LK Advani on March 3, 2002. He submitted that SGPC had come into existence due to the misuse of the Sikh Shrine by self styled Mahants in collusion with the colonial British Empire.
Certain vested interests, had from time to time sought to misuse the statutory provisions to induct into the electoral rolls non-Sikhs under the garb of Sehajdhari Sikhs. Adding further, he made the submission that a large number of such persons, some with fake names and addresses, were sought to be included with a view to dilute the electoral rolls, which essentially should consist bonafide Sikh voters.
“Certain government officials of the state government, driven by selfish political interests, were denying to accept the enrolment forms of bonafide Sikhs and accepting requests for enrolment from non-Sikhs in the garb of their being Sehajdhari Sikhs,” informed Mukhtar Singh.
Answering another question raised by the petitioner Hans Raj, he informed the bench that it was well within the powers of the central government under section 72 of the Punjab Re-organisation Act to issue the notification in question, which was also earlier upheld by a five judge bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
It was also submitted that the right to vote to an elected body is a statutory right governed by the provisions of the statue regulating such a body and not a fundamental right as had been interpreted by the petitioner. After hearing the arguments in the case the three judge bench comprising chief justice Ranjan Gogoi, justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and justice Jasbir Singh adjourned the case for next hearing to July 19.