A US court ruled that a gurdwara management faction acted on illegal grounds when they forcibly took control of the sacred place in California in June 2013.
The court has ordered the members of Turlock Sikh grurdwara, a religious non-profit, to give up seized facilities, records and finances immediately. The members have also been prohibited from serving as gurdwara officers or directors for five years.
Stanislaus superior court, California, documents stated that a rift had developed within the management over a decision to terminate the contract of gurdwara’s priest Attar Singh. The disagreement turned physical on June 2, 2013, when a fight broke out in front of the temple. A few weeks later, a group of members changed the locks, took control of office and corporate records and began running its affairs.
The directors, who were elected in January 2013, filed a complaint against the group, claiming the change was forced and failed to follow proper procedure. The court agreed.
“I am pleased and thankful that this ruling came out,” said Harinder Grewal, a member of the gurdwara who testified on behalf of the elected board. He added that nobody should ever use force to take over any property or organisation.
Grewal called the ruling ‘historic’ and said it will be a precedent for future court cases involving hostile takeover of Sikh temples across the US. He alleged that these takeovers happen often and money acts as the motivating factor.
The board members, who filed the complaint, will resume control of the gurdwara until the next election in April 2016 under the court’s supervision.
The court also ordered a committee be created to draft a gurdwara membership application to be presented before the court for approval.
Earlier, this year, a similar power struggle occurred at America’s largest gurdwara, in California’s San Jose. The court had then, ordered re-elections to resolve the dispute between the two factions with clearly ‘defined agendas’.