The process for forming an advisory panel to review important or controversial decisions taken by the Akal Takht has been set in motion, with four names approved by Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar.
The four persons picked for the panel are former SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar; Chief Khalsa Diwan president Charanjit Singh Chadha; Partap Singh of the Sikh Studies Circle, Ludhiana; and Prithipal Singh, president of a Ludhiana gurdwara. The fifth person on the panel will be recommended by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC).
Confirming the development, a senior SGPC official told HT here on Thursday that for the time being, it would be a five-member panel. It can be expanded at a later stage, he added.
Sources said all four persons were contacted by a senior SGPC official to obtain their consent. Prithipal Singh’s name was added after SGPC executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta declined to be a panel member. Mehta refused as he is busy attending to his ailing daughter, who is admitted to a hospital in Mumbai.
The DSGMC is likely to finalise its representative by Friday. A formal announcement from the Akal Takht is expected in a day or two.
Sources said Dr Balkar Singh, who is well versed with Sikh religious affairs and history, was also contacted by the SGPC. However, he declined to be a panel member.
The step to form the panel was taken following widespread criticism from a section of the Sikhs over the Akal Takht’s decision to pardon Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a 2007 blasphemy case.
While announcing the decision, Giani Gurbachan Singh had indicated that Sikhs would be free to approach this panel for airing their views on decisions taken by the Akal Takht. He said all Sikh religious and social organisations, independent sects and even individuals were free to approach the panel if they had any reservation about any Takht decision.
He had appealed to the Sikh Panth to express their views before the panel instead of doing it in public or through the media. The first case that will come up before the panel will be the September 24 decision to exonerate Ram Rahim in the blasphemy case.
“As it is an advisory panel, its views will not be binding on the Sikh clergy, though these will be duly considered,” a SGPC official said while clarifying that it was not a review panel, as was being stated in a section of the media.