After 29 long years, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandik Committee (SGPC) has finally decided to fight for a compensation amount to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore, as damages sustained to various SGPC properties in the Golden Temple complex as well as in 36 other shrines in Punjab administered by the religious body in June 1984 when Operation Bluestar was launched by the army to flush out armed militants from inside the Golden Temple.
Disclosing this to the media here on Tuesday, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said that the required court fee, amounting to Rs 10 crore, had been deposited with the Delhi high court, where the case had been filed.
The petition seeking compensation was filed in 1986 by the SGPC in a Amritsar court in 1986. Subsequently the then SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra filed another petition on his personal behalf seeking compensation for the religious body for the damages to its properties.
Due to the disturbed conditions in Punjab, the central government got the case shifted to the Delhi high court and both the petitions were clubbed together by the court. In the petition, the central government (ministry of defence), the Punjab government and the governor of Punjab were made parties by the SGPC.
To contest the case, the SGPC was to deposit a fee of Rs 10 crore as per the court's rules. However, the SGPC maintained that since it was a religious organization, it should be exempted from the court fee.
The court's registrar general was asked to decide whether the SGPC should be exempted from the court fee or not. The counsel for the central government contested the SGPC claims on the grounds that the religious body passed an annual budget running into crores every year and it also had bank deposits.
It took 26 long years for the court to finally ask the SGPC to deposit the court fee if it wished to contest the case. When this was decided, difference of opinions arose within the religious body on whether it would be desirable to deposit a heavy amount of Rs 10 crore as the case may go the other way around.
Finally in January this year, the SGPC executive took the decision to contest the case and subsequently in May the court fee was deposited. The next date of hearing of the case is in October and the SGPC will have a panel of lawyers to contest the case.
In the petition, the SGPC is seeking compensation for the damages to the Akal Takht, the Sikh Reference Library, the SGPC offices and various other buildings in the Golden Temple complex. Besides it has also claimed in the petition that 36 other shrines run by the SGPC were also damaged when the security forces conducted search operations in these shrines in June 1984.