With Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi — also a suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader — meeting Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh on Wednesday to gather support for the passing of a law mandating separate registration of Sikh marriages, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) could soon find itself in a tight spot in the budget session of Parliament in Februray, when the Bill is placed before the House.
Gandhi had introduced a Private Members Bill — Sikh Marriage Bill, 2015 — in the winter session. The move was then seen as ‘hijacking’ a panthic issue that has traditionally been a ‘favoured topic’ for the SAD.
Political pundits say that if the bill is passed, Dr Gandhi will emerge as big leader among the Sikh masses that have been demanding separate registration of Sikh marriages for long.
“SAD has always betrayed the Sikhs on panthic issues. With Gandhi introducing the bill, they have to be careful. If they support the bill, Gandhi will emerge as big leader of the Sikh masses. If they do not vote for it, they will lose the authority to raise this panthic issue again and face the ire of Sikhs,” said Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former Akali Dal Leader.
“I have requested the Akal Takht jathedar to write to all 750 parliamentarians (the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha) requesting them to help pass this bill. He has assured me his full support,” Gandhi said, adding that the bill had been drafted by Sikh scholars and has also been deliberated in detail in the House.
“Sikhism is a separate religion and there is need to have a separate Marriage Act for them. I hope MPs from the SAD and it s coalition partner, the BJP, will support this bill,” he said.
State has failed to make rules
Interestingly, the SAD has been demanding — for many years — that the Sikhs be allowed to register their marriages under the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 instead of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In 2012, the Centre even made an amendment to the Constitution to facilitate the process. Yet, the process could be translated into reality as the Punjab government failed to make rules that would govern the registration of marriages under the Anand Marriage Act.