Chandigarh: The Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) has decided to wind up all posts prevailing in the Gurdwara Election Commission by September 30, thereby rendering the statutory body completely non-functional in Punjab.
In a communique to the Punjab government and to secretary, Gurdwara Election Commission, the MHA under-secretary has conveyed that since there is no significant work left with the commission, it would be appropriate to discontinue with the services of the present staff by September 30. The MHA said it had also conveyed its decision to the Punjab government.
There are seven posts sanctioned by the Union government, including the chief commissioner and secretary of the Gurdwara Election Commission. The Punjab government provides for 12 staff members attached to the commission as the secretarial support.
With this, majority of the staff members, including senior assistants, stenographers, superintendents, clerks, computer operators, drivers and peons, who have been working with the commission for nearly 20 years, will be left without work.
The Gurdwara Election Commission was made a statutory body under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, and has been holding elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and various management committees of the gurdwaras under the body.
According to SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, he was aware of the issue and the SGPC had written to the Union government not to discontinue with the staff as it would amount to making the gurdwara commission completely non-functional. “We have taken up the matter with the Centre and will not let it close down,” Makkar said.
SGPC secretary Avtar Singh said the union government would not wind up the commission but had decided to discontinue with the staff. “There is an internal issue between the commission and the union government that has led to the decision,” the secretary said.
Enquiries made by HT revealed that the commission had been functioning without the chief commissioner since September 30 last year. The MHA did not appoint a chief commissioner after Justice HS Brar (retd) completed his tenure.
Even the staff has sent repeated communiques to both the MHA and Punjab government that there was a lot of pending work in the commission, including eight cases pending in courts. Second, an up-to-date amended Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, is to be printed which is still in process with the commission. There are some other pending miscellaneous cases being processed by the commission, the staff contended.
However, the MHA, in a communique sent on September 23, said, “Regarding arrangements of handing over the office of the commission along with records, furniture, etc, it is requested that a list of all files and records and a separate list of all office equipment in the commission may please be sent to the MHA urgently by September 24.”
The notification issued by the union government, excluding the Sehajdhari Sikhs from the right to vote in the SGPC polls, was quashed by the Punjab and Haryana high court. Thereafter, the special leave petition (SLP) filed by the SGPC against the judgment was still pending in the Supreme Court. If the SLP is allowed by the apex court, the election to the local committees of the management of gurdwaras has to be held by the commission immediately, and if it is dismissed, fresh elections to both the SGPC and committees would be held together. The commission last held the SGPC polls in 2011, which are due in 2016.