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‘Sikhs not a minority in Punjab’

The apex court refuses to stay a Punjab and Haryana HC verdict that held Sikhs to be a non-minority in Punjab, reports Satya Prakash.
Hindustan Times | By Satya Prakash
UPDATED ON FEB 16, 2008 03:42 AM IST

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict that held Sikhs to be a non-minority in Punjab.

The High Court had on December 17, 2007 quashed a Punjab Government notification permitting the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to give 50 per cent reservation to Sikh students in colleges run by it.

The High Court relied on the 2001 Census, according to which Sikhs formed 59.2 per cent of the state’s population while Hindus were 37 per cent. The High Court's verdict was based on a constitution bench ruling that minority status can be decided on the basis of a state's population and not on the basis of nationwide population figures. It had held that there was no material to substantiate that Sikhs were a non-dominant group in the state, apprehending the deprivation of their rights at the hands of dominant groups.

The Punjab Government and SGPC have challenged the High Court’s order before the Supreme Court. A bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan on Friday issued notice to Sahil Mittal, a resident of Sangrur, on whose petition the High Court order had been delivered.

On behalf of the SGPC, senior counsel Harish Salve said the High Court was wrong in saying that Sikhs were not a minority in Punjab. Going by the definition of Sikh in the Sikh Gurudwaras Act, only around one-third of the electorate of the state belonged to the community.

“There are several sects who believed in living gurus who could not be considered as Sikhs according to the Act and if it is accepted then Sikhs are clearly a minority,” Salve said, referring to Nirankaris, followers of Dera Sacha Sauda and Radha Soami.

However, the court said, “If we go by this submission, then Hindus will also become a minority as they are also followers of various sects.”

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