The Union cabinet on Thursday okayed the presentation of an amendment in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1925 in Parliament, to debar Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in Sikh religious bodies’ elections. With that, functioning of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will be back on track as the SGPC general body remains frozen since 2011 over this issue.
This would further pave the way of election of a new executive body, including the president. That’s why this move now is being seen as a way to finally replace SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar by his own party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), as he was under fire during the crisis that had hit Punjab late last year after incidents of desecration of religious texts.
It was the SAD that sought the amendment. The Union cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to approve the debarment with effect from 2003, said a home ministry statement. The amendment is expected to be brought in Parliament within the ongoing budget session for mandatory approval.
The final go-ahead would require one more step, though. After Parliament nod, the matter would go to the Supreme Court for reversing its orders of freezing the SGPC general body elected in the 2011.
Sehajdharis are believed to be ‘gradual adopters’ of Sikhism. This debarment had been done in 2003, too, but that decision was struck down in 2011 by the Punjab and Haryana high court, on a petition by the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation (SSF). Reason: While the Union home ministry had made the amendment only by way of a notification, the law required it to be passed through Parliament.
This led to vacuum as the 2011 quashing came just after 170 members of the SGPC general house had been elected. The SGPC therefore moved the Supreme Court which ruled that the executive body functional before the 2011 polls continue to run the day-to-day affairs. Makkar remained president in that executive.
“By amending the act with retrospective effect, there will be no further litigation as it would make the 2011 SGPC election valid. We want the elected body functional,” said SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema. He refused to comment on the fate of Makkar.
Apart from the 170 elected members, there are 15 co-opted members too. As per the procedure, this general house would elect a 15-member executive headed by the president.
How Makkar faces exit
o Union cabinet clears home ministry’s proposal to amend Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 to debar Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in elections of Sikh religious bodies; approval from parliament expected easily
o With that, petition against earlier debarment notification would become meaningless, paving way for SGPC general body of 2011 to be functional
o That ‘re-activated’ general body would elect fresh executive, and new SGPC prez in place of Avtar Singh Makkar expected to be picked