December 5, 2015 | By Gurtej Singh (IAS)
The story of the Sikh Marriage Bill, which crossed the decisive milestone today, began in 2007 at about this time. President Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan had called the elections. He had formed an interim government in which Mr. Sayed Afzal Haider, whose ancestors had been important state officials during Ranjit Singh’s time, had been appointed a Law Minister of Pakistan. In response to request of the congregation on Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary at Nanakana Sahib, that the outgoing president had agreed to enact the Sikh Marriage law. He asked for a draft of the law from the Sikhs within a month so that it could be enacted before the impending elections.
Several people were approached but only, Sardar Harshinder Singh, my colleague at the Tat Gurmat Taksal and I accepted to do the job within the limited time when I was sounded on November 26th. Sardar Harshinder Singh roped in his friend Sardar Kamaljit Singh Dhillon for help.
Sardar Harshinder Singh and I had prepared the draft by November 30, 2007, with active help from Sardar Kamaljit Singh. On the 1st of December I arranged a meeting of about 30 learned Sikhs, in the Guru Granth Sahib Bhawan to examine the draft. The gathering included a retired judge of the High Court, some prominent lawyers including Sardar Balwant Singh Gulliani, some academicians including professor Kulbir Singh, a lexicographer Sardar Amarjit Singh and several authors including Sardar Harjinder Singh Dilgeer. Some useful suggestions were made by Professor Kashmie Singh which were incorporated.
By the evening of 2nd December, Sardar Harshinder Singh and I had prepared the final version we wanted to present. Sardar Paramjit Singh Sarna president of the Delhi Gurdwara Management Board asked several prominent lawyers and retired judges of Delhi to examine it. They suggested no changes.
On the morning of December 6, 2007, we were in Lahore where we were soon joined by Sardar KTS Tulsi and Sardar Manjit Singh. Both looked up the draft and approved it without any change. That very evening the draft was presented to the Law Minister of Pakistan. Early in 2008, it was converted into law by Ordinance, without any change. In due course, my colleagues and two researchers prepared the necessary rules, registers, rationale etc as required by Pakistan.
In 2012, Sardar Paramjit Singh Sarna arranged it with the law minister of India to have the Sikh Marriage Act adopted. Sardar Harshinder Singh and I prepared a bill for the Indian parliament. Nothing came out of it. The Bill, however was well circulated. I had sent it to all the members of the parliament and had put it on the internet.
Some three weeks back Dr. Dharamvir Gandhi, our Member of Parliament from Patiala met me at Chandigarh. He wanted to move the Sikh Marriage Bill in the parliament and was quite enthusiastic about getting it accepted. He told me that he had received my draft from Sardar Harbans Singh Aujla.
Dr. Gandhi rang up a few days back to say that the intended legislation had been introduced as a private member’s Bill in the relevant committee of the Lok Sabha. He said that the members had approved it without any changes after a cursory reading.
This morning (December 5, 2015) Dr Gandhi rang up at about 10 AM to announce that he had moved the Sikh Marriage Bill 2015 in the Lok Sabha. He also told me that the legal committee of the house examined it thoroughly for over one hour and approved it without any change.
It looks as if we are now nearer to having a full fledged Sikh Marriage Act than we have ever been before.
Now it is incumbent upon all the enlightened Sikhs in the world to canvass with the MPs. All concerned are requested to send messages to all the members of parliament to adopt the Bill as Act at the earliest. This is Dr. Ganhi’s request. I also urge those with whom I have some influence, to do the same. By this little we may achieve, what has been our goal for almost a century. I hope the Sikh people will not fail Mr. Dharamvir Gandhi and themselves!
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