September 1, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
The Centre today informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it has withdrawn a 2003 notification preventing ‘Sehajdhari’ or non-baptised Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections.
The notification was issued by BJP led NDA’s government in 2003, on the request of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC). As the government had failed to make necessary amendment to the Sikh Gurudwara Act, 1925 the notification’s validity for current elections was in doubt.
Today, in the High Court, the Centre told the full bench, comprising justices M. M. Kumar, Alok Singh and Gurdev Singh, that the October 8, 2003, notification was issued “without application of mind” and that its withdrawal now enables Sehajdhari Sikhs to vote in the September 18 polls.
This reply from the Government of India came on a seven-year old plea filed by the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation challenging the notification.
SGPC Elections are Postponed?
For the time being there is no direct answer to this question. With today’s development, the voters’ list for the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee general house elections will be re-drafted, if Gurdwara Elections Commission allows the Sehajdharis to participate in the polls. So it will depend on the process of registration of Sehajdhari votes. Prolonged process could delay the elections.
It is expected that Gurudwara Election Commission may ask State governments of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal, as well as Center’s administrator of Chandigarh, to give there opinion about the time required to register Sehajdhari Votes. If any of the Governments expresses its’ inability to have the task of registration completed before 18 September, 2011 then there would be delay.
Independent observers are of the view that the High Court’s decision would certainly result in postponement of elections, as it would be hard for the governments to complete registration of vote with in given time frame.
The Gurudwara Election Commission Secretary, Avtar Singh Narula, said the commission will react to the development after it receives a a copy of the reply.
Appearing for Union of India, advocate Harbhagwan Singh told the notification was issued “without any application of mind only on the basis of the resolution passed by the SGPC on March 3, 2002.”
Taking note of the assertions, the court said: “In view of the statement by senior advocate Harbhagwan Singh, the reference made to the full Bench is rendered infructuous and is disposed of as such.”
The petition was filed by the president of Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, Paramjeet Singh Ranu, who welcomed the notification’s withdrawal and appealed to the SGPC to treat them at par with other Sikhs and allow them to participate in the polls.
However, SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told reporters at Ludhiana that he condemns the withdrawal of the notification issued by the NDA government as the Sehajdhari Sikhs did not conform to the definition of true Sikhs.
Makkar has repeated its’ popular allegation that the UPA government’s action was a “direct interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs by the Congress, which could not be tolerated.”
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who heads SAD, also lashed out at the Centre and said his party is “heading for a clean sweep on all 170 odd (SGPC) seats in the forthcoming poll, and the Centre’s move comes in the wake of its utter frustration over its inability to take illegal and illegitimate control over Sikh religious affairs.” Describing the Centre’s move as “dangerous”, he said, “I am shocked at the insensitivity of the central leaders and of the Congress High Command toward the Sikh sentiments.”
Panthic Morcha leader Raghbir Singh Rajasansi told Sikh Siyasat Network that delay in SGPC election would befit Panthic Morcha and would provide an opportunity to Panthic bodies to uproot the corrupt Badal regime from the religious body.
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Related Topics: SGPC Elections