M A I N   N E W S

SGPC poll may be put off, Sehajdharis can now vote
Centre withdraws 2003 notification, claims it was issued without application of mind
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 1
In a surprising turn of events, the Centre today withdrew the October 2003 notification debarring Sehajdhari Sikhs from exercising franchise in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee elections.

The Centre claimed the notification had been issued “without application of mind”. The strategic withdrawal came just 17 days prior to the SGPC elections. As a result, the right of the Sehajdhari Sikhs to vote stands restored and they may find themselves taking part in the forthcoming SGPC poll.

As the notification for holding the elections has already been issued, a final decision on the inclusion of the Sehajdhari Sikhs will be taken by the Gurdwara Election Commission.

The development is significant as the elections may be postponed if the commission decides to amend the electoral rolls to include the names of Sehajdhari Sikhs.

The announcement this afternoon took everyone by a surprise. As the hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging the non-inclusion of Sehajdhari Sikhs in the voting process was on, senior advocate-cum-Punjab’s former Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh stood up.

Representing the Union of India, Harbhagwan Singh informed the Full Bench of Justice MM Kumar, Justice Alok Singh and Justice Gurdev Singh that the notification dated October 8, 2003, stood withdrawn.

He said the notification was issued “without any application of mind, only on the basis of a resolution passed by the SGPC on March 3, 2002”.

He informed the Bench that the Union of India also wished to withdraw the written statements, which had taken a contrary stand”.

The Bench asserted in the open court: “In the 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 notification was issued during the NDA regime under Prime Minister AB Vajpayee a year before the 2004 General Elections. A few months back, an application was filed before the High Court by the national president of Sehajdhari Sikh Federation Dr Paramjeet Singh Ranu, seeking a stay on the SGPC elections, slated to be held on September 18. He asserted a writ petition was earlier filed, challenging the 2003 notification “vide which the voting rights of the Sehajdhari Sikhs have been taken away in a totally illegal and arbitrary manner”.

Without waiting for the High Court decision, a proposal was submitted to the State of Punjab for holding election to the SGPC General House.

His counsel added the election process was made subject to the outcome of the writ petition vide an earlier order dated May 31, 2004. “While the writ petition is still pending before this court, the elected body has already enjoyed a term of seven years against the statutory period of five years and now again the respondents are going ahead with the election process…If the respondents are allowed to go ahead with the elections without waiting for the decision on this very important issue where lakhs of Sehajdhari Sikhs voters have been disfranchised, the respondents could be again electing a body against the provision of law. “Such a body can hardly be referred to as a true representative of the Sikhs masses. In the facts and circumstances, it is a fit case where the respondents are required to be restrained from holding elections,” he added.

Ball in his court

Any decision on the elections can only be taken after we get a copy of the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. We are bound by any direction of the court, but before I can make any comment, I need to know what the order is — Justice HS Brar (retd) Chief Commissioner Gurdwara Election Commissioner

n The strategic withdrawal comes just 17 days prior to the SGPC elections

n The notification was issued a year before the General Election during the NDA regime

n Announcement made during the hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging the notification

Who is a Sehajdhari

n A clean-shaven person who believes in Sikhism and its religious rituals

n Does not use tobacco in any form

n Does not eat halal meat

n Knows the Mool Mantar (Ek Onkar, Satnam…)

n Does not consume alcohol

n Does not follow any other religion

Who is a Keshdhari

n A person who does not cut hair

n Believes in all tenets of Sikhism

n Follows all rituals of the Sikh religion

n And follows all principals followed by Sehajdharis





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