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Sehajdhari Issue – (1) HC issued notice to Centre, Punjab, SGPC and Gurudwara EC; next hearing on 8 Feb. (2) Why situation is so confusing?

January 3, 2012 | By

Chandigarh, Punjab (January 3, 2011): As per media reports, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notices to the Central Government of India (GOI), Punjab government, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (SGPC) and Gurudwara Election Commission for February 8 on a PIL by so-called Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, seeking fresh elections of SGPC and inclusion of Sehajdhari in revised list.

SGPC:

SGPC is a statuary body formed under The Sikh Gurudwara Act of 1925 and is elected by polls conducted by Gurudwara Election Commission under the directions of Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI. Members of SGPC are elected by Sikh voters of three states and a union territory of India; namely, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pardesh and Chandigarh. SGPC’s main task is to manage the affairs of all major historic Sikh Gurudwaras situated in these four territories.

Basis of Litigation:

Last month on December 20, 2011 the P&H High Court had quashed the GOI’s notification debarring Sehajdharis, from voting in the Sikh body’s polls. Now a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is filed by he petitioner, Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, on this basis of December 20 decision of HC. The petitioner appealed that till the fresh elections are held, newly elected members of SGPC, which is the apex religious body of the Sikhs, be restrained from acting.

Law, Notification and decision of P&H HC:

It was submitted by the petitioner that the election of SGPC held on September 18, 2011 was made conditional and outcome of the writ petitions challenging notification issued by the GOI on October 8, 2003 disfranchising Sehajdharis by the full bench of the High Court as well as by the Supreme Court in the Special Leave Petition. It was contended by the counsel of the petitioners that with the quashing of the notification by a full bench of the court, the election to SGPC was non-est and continuation of the SGPC was not in accordance with law. A bunch of three petitions were filed in the High Court. In one of the writ petition Sehajdhari Sikh Federation had challenged the notification dated October 8, 2003 issued by the union of India whereby in section 49 and 92 of the Sikh Gururdwaras Act 1925 the word “Sehajdari” was omitted. In another writ petition, the constitutional validity of section 44 of the 1925 Act was challenged being ultra vires of the Constitution. The third petition had questioned the validity of notification being in contradiction to the definition of “Sikh” as contained under the provisions of section 2(9) and 2(10-A) of the 1925 Act.

Sehajdhari Controversy; Why situation is so confusing?:

The Sehajdhari issue has created a controversy in political, social and religious circles of Sikhs. Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), also known as Badal Dal, is blaming Congress Party, and it’s Punjab President Captain Amrinder Singh, for politically using the issue to harm Badal Dal’s political interests.

Other Sikh organizations and political parties, including Akali Dal Panch Pardhani and Dal Khalsa, have accused Badal Dal, SGPC regime led by Badal Dal and Congress Party for allowing the controversy to prevail and thereby allowing Indian courts to pronounce decisions in religious matters of Sikhs.

Some religious bodies, including Sant Samaj and Damdami Taksal (Mehta/Dhumma faction) that have allied with Badal Dal, had also expressed their annoyance over the decision of High Court on Sehajdhari issue.

But the debate centred on this issue does not suggest any way out. The main reason behind this static and confused position could be the complex nature of issue, which on the one hand relates to the internal dynamics of the Sikh society (the definition of Sehajdhari and their role) and on the other hand it is related to relations of Sikhs with the Indian State (The Sikh Gurudwara Act, 1925; the role of Indian Parliament in Sikh religious affairs regarding amendment etc. of the 1925 Act and role of Indian courts being interpreting authority in relation to the said Act.).




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