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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Election at Canada gurdwara invalidated by judge

sikh24.com  Vancouver, November 11, 2013
First Published: 20:37 IST(11/11/2013) | Last Updated: 20:38 IST(11/11/2013)

A British Columbia Supreme Court justice has ordered members of a Victoria gurdwara to elect a new executive, invalidating a March vote in part because of concerns about possible late voter registrations.

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The new election must be held within 90 days of the October 30 written decision by Justice Malcolm Macaulay.

Macaulay noted that the Khalsa Diwan Society's traditionalist and moderate groups had been involved in court action at least five times in recent decades.

The two sides agreed before the March election on rules to follow, including a cut-off date for new members to sign up so they would be allowed to vote.

Members continued to sign up through the election day, and Macaulay said he did not see a way to distinguish between voting and non-voting society members.

"There was no bad faith or improper conduct intended to advance the interests of one faction over the other," he wrote.

"Yet the continuation of voter registration after an apparent cut-off date led to confusion and accordingly, disadvantage."

Gurnam Bajwa, the society's current secretary, said he thought Macaulay came up with a sound judgment where "everybody wins". He said it is clear that Macaulay wants all involved to pay close attention to the society's constitution and rules, and avoid further court appearances.

"There will be an election within 90 days," Bajwa said. "The membership will be notified within a legitimate time."

Long-time society member Nindi Sehmi said he accepted the court decision, but thought the pre-election agreement had been solid enough to make another vote unnecessary.

Traditionalists and moderates disagree on a variety of issues. Moderates have historically preferred, for example, to use tables and chairs while dining, while traditionalists want to use mats.

The traditionalists defeated the moderate slate in the now-invalid March election, which brought out 2,312 people to vote for the board of directors.

The society had almost 4,000 members before 2013, and about 900 new members were in place by March 8. Another 219 new members registered before the March 10 election, held at the temple, located at 1210 Topaz Ave.

Macaulay said he feared his judgment would be considered "a whisper in the wind" if he did not take decisive action.

He explained there was indication that some executive groups over time had approached governance "in a casual way," and that a number of people involved admitted to not reading the society's constitution or bylaws.

He ordered that the current temple executive remain in office until the new election.

Those elected in the new vote will be in office until the next election, scheduled for March 2015.

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