The battle for the presidentship of the NRI Sabha, Punjab, a state government agency for welfare of the expatriate community, is all set to witness a direct clash between former president Kamaljeet Singh Hayre, a British national, and Jasvir Singh Gill, a former vice-president. Two others are also in the fray.
Interestingly, the NRI affairs department as well as sabha chairman Anurag Verma had failed to issue instructions to clarify whether foreign nationals were eligible to contest the sabha elections or not even as additional deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer Parneet Bhardwaj has rejected objections related to candidature of Hayre and allowed him to contest the election.
By allowing a foreign national to contest the poll despite the ministry of home affairs' instructions to take appropriate steps with regard to Hayre's election as president over two years ago, the question whether sabha headed by the chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is a government body or a non-governmental organisation has assumed significance in the expatriate community and bureaucratic circles.
"If it is a government body, then a foreign national cannot contest elections for its presidentship. On the contrary, if it is an NGO, then the state government had no role to play in conducting its election process, as was settled down last year by a Delhi court in a case related to the union sports ministry ordering to conduct elections of a sports body association," Mandeep Singh Sachdeva, a legal expert, said.
Principal secretary SS Channy had issued order on December 20, 2012, asking the Jalandhar ADC to conduct its elections without quoting any act or the rules under which he was vested with the power to issue such an order. "The sabha is an NGO, which got registered as a society under the Registration of Societies Act.
The state government can order the society's elections," he said. Interestingly, there are thousands of societies registered in the state, but the state government does not conduct their elections.
Earlier on Saturday morning, efforts of the ADC-cum-returning officer Parneet Bhardwaj to create consensus among the seven candidates -- Hayre, Gill, Paramjit Singh Naurangpur, Sukhwant Singh Padda, Gurjeet Kaur Padda, Jagjit Singh Toor and Sarabjit Singh Giljian -- to choose one of them unanimously, proved to be a futile exercise.
While Toor and Giljian withdrew their nomination papers in favour of Hayre and Naurangpur respectively, the lone woman candidate Gurjeet Kaur preferred to withdraw from the race on the assurance that a separate women wing would be constituted to deal with women's issues.