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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

SC orders status quo on gurdwaras, fight still on

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 07, 2014
First Published: 15:20 IST(7/8/2014) | Last Updated: 00:11 IST(8/8/2014)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered two warring Sikh bodies to maintain status quo on the management of all the 52 gurdwaras in Haryana, asking the state government to ensure there was no law and order problem.

In an interim order, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India RM Lodha said the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) would continue to manage the shrines that were in their control at the time of passing of the order.

“We are directing to maintain status quo to subject gurdwaras as existing today at 2.30pm in all respect,” a three-judge bench said.

Considered the mini-religious parliament of Sikhs that controls gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and some in Himachal and Chandigarh, the Amritsar-based SGPC has bitterly opposed a separate HSGMC, which came into being just last month, and has resisted giving up Sikh shrines in Haryana.

The SGPC and HSGMC were also directed by the court to open separate bank accounts to deposit the offerings. The two sides, however, made conflicting claims.

The HSGMC had taken charge of about six of the 52 gurdwaras, said the Haryana government, which brought in the legislation for setting up of a separate committee. Only one shrine was under the control of the HSGMC, the SGPC countered.

The court’s order came on a petition filed by Haryana resident and SGPC member Harbhajan Singh, challenging the constitutional validity of the Haryana Sikh Gurudwara (Management) Act, 2014, under which the HSGMC has been constituted to manage gurdwaras in the state. The Haryana assembly had passed the bill on July 11.

The SGPC gets to keep all the offerings made at the gurdwaras, including Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine visited by thousands of devotees every day, managed by it.

The funds are used for various charitable works, upkeep of shrines and running educational institutes.

But now, the HSGMC will take over this role in Haryana.

On Wednesday, HSGMC members had clashed with the police in Kurukshetra when they were not allowed to enter a gurdwara.

The bench, which was also given an Intelligence Bureau report on law and order situation in the state, asked Haryana’s police chief to ensure that law and order situation was not disturbed.

Haryana’s counsel senior advocate Raju Ramachandran said the state was tense but under control.

“The government has identified five flashpoints and is committed to prevent any untoward incident,” he said.

Harbhajan Singh has questioned the Haryana government’s decision to enact the new law, saying only the Centre had the power to make law in respect to the SGPC.

The Haryana government’s decision was not only against the Constitution but was an attempt to create a rift in the Sikh community.

“Time is a great healer. Wait for some time. Proceed with cool head and argue dispassionately and forcefully. Law and order will not be disturbed,” the CJI said, giving August 25 as the next date of hearing.

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