Legality of SGPC action to sack Nandgarh being questioned

  • Harkirat Singh, Hindustan Times, Amritsar
  • Updated: Jan 16, 2015 23:13 IST

There is no stopping the executive of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) from going ahead and getting rid of Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh as jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, but the ‘legality’ of the signature campaign initiated for the purpose is being questioned.

Reports in the media said a memorandum signed by 150 of the 185 members of the SGPC general house was handed over to chief Avtar Singh Makkar for removing Nandgarh by Amarjeet Singh Chawla, a member of the general house.
Are those who signed the memorandum, members of the SGPC general house? Those who had penned down their signatures are those who had won from their respective seats in the general elections to the SGPC held in September 2011.

However, till date the constitution of the general house on the basis of the 2011 elections has not taken place. In fact, those who won in 2011 cannot legally claim to be members of the SGPC.

So if no general house exists, then who is going to ratify the decision of the executive. As per the Gurdwara Act, all important decisions, like even the annual budget, after being cleared by the executive, have to be placed before the SGPC general house for clearance.

Pending case before SC

This is due to the case of the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation (SSF) pending before the Supreme Court. The SSF had challenged the legality of the 2011 SGPC polls in the apex court after the Punjab and Haryana high court granted ‘Sehajdharis’ the voting rights in SGPC polls. The SGPC bccame a party to the case.

On the plea of the SGPC in 2012, the Supreme Court ordered that the office-bearers and executive members elected in November 2010 would conduct the day-to-day affairs of the SGPC, till the final judgment in the case was delivered. Since then no general house meeting had been held, as the term of the 2004 house had long expired while the new house was awaiting legal recognition.

“The removal of Nandgarh is illegal and unconstitutional. We will initiate legal action when the time comes,” said SAD (Delhi) chief Paramjit Singh Sarna in a release issued here on Friday.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwarpal Singh felt that those who are still not recognised as members of the SGPC were trying to put pressure on the executive through the memorandum to remove Nandgarh. “While the executive can remove Nandgarh, but can those who are not SGPC members press the executive? Then these same members cannot ratify the decision of the executive as they are still not members of the SGPC (general house),” he said.

A retired SGPC official who, during his tenure, had occupied some important positions in the gurdwara body, said Chawla and company could not claim to be SGPC members. They had no right to influence the executive, he added, while also pointing to the procedure of seeking the approval of the general house.

“Another point of contention is whether a major decision, like removal of a jathedar figure in the apex court’s concept of day-to-day working,” he asked while pointing out that only the court could give the right interpretation.

Frame rules for removal of jathedar

Kanwarpal, while blaming deputy CM and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal for the proposed removal of Nandgarh, said, “Time and again, unsavory situation arises as there are no set rules and procedures regarding the appointment, removal, working sphere and jurisdiction of heads of these temporal institutions.”

He said Nandgarh had taken a principled stand on the Nanakshahi calendar and this had irked Sukhbir. Sarna also hailed Nandgarh for his stand saying once again a person who had dared to oppose the Badals was being sacrificed.
The executive, at its meeting at Fatehgarh Sahib on Saturday, may go in for the suspension of Nandgarh after framing charges against him. He will be given a month to reply to the charges and thereafter he will be sacked by the executive.

Likely successors

A number of names have cropped up as the likely successors of Nandgarh. If he is suspended, then an acting jathedar will be appointed for the time being.

Among those in contention are Giani Maan Singh, a ‘granthi’ at Harmandar Sahib, who had served as head granthi of Damdama Sahib.

Another name being mentioned is that of Giani Jagtar Singh Ludhiana, additional head granthi at Harmandar Sahib.

SGPC executive member Rajinder Singh Mehta’s name has also emerged. Though he is not keen on it, the Damdami Taksal is putting pressure on him. Chawla has been assigned the duty to persuade Mehta. Nandgarh himself was a member of the SGPC when he was appointed the jathedar in 2006.

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