Ban Removed on Sehajdharis Voting in SGPC Polls
PTI | Chandigarh | Sep 01, 2011
The Centre today informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it has withdrawn a 2003 notification preventing 'Sehajdhari' or non-baptised Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections.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 Centre told the 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.
The government's reply came on a seven-year old plea filed by the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation challenging the notification.
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 non-baptised Sikhs to participate in the polls. The process could delay the elections.
The GEC 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 said 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."
A former Congress leader Bir Devinder Singh said in a statement: "It is appalling to learn about the despicable act of the Government of India. There seem to be no tangible reason to withdraw such an important notification, particularly at a time when SGPC elections are already at advanced stage... It has proven beyond doubt that the central government has no respect for the sentiments of the Sikh community."