Supreme Court upholds validity of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Act : The Tribune India

Supreme Court upholds validity of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Act

Not violative of any of the fundamental rights conferred under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution, says top court Bench

Supreme Court upholds validity of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Act

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PTI

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the validity of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014, under which a separate committee was formed to manage the affairs of gurdwaras in the state, saying affairs of the religious minority in the state i.e. Sikhs were left in the hands of the Sikhs alone.

“Since the affairs of the Sikh minority in the State are to be managed by the Sikhs alone, therefore, it cannot be said to be violative of any of the fundamental rights conferred under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution,” a Bench led by Justice Hemant Gupta, dismissing two petitions filed eight years ago seeking quashing of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Act, 2014 which came into force on July 14, 2014.

The Bench – which also included Justice Vikram Nath – noted that the Haryana Act was similar to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 having similar provisions of constituting a committee to manage Gurudwara affairs under Section 3 of the Haryana Act.

“The Gurdwara property in terms of Section 2(f) of the Haryana Act means all movable and immovable properties of a Gurdwara or any institution which, immediately before the appointed day, vested or was kept in deposit in the name of any Board, Trust, Committee, Gurdwara Management or was being regulated under the provisions of the 1925 Act. The members of the Committee have to be elected from the eligible voters who is Amritdhari Sikh, a Sikh, and who is eighteen years of age, but not a Patit Sikh and is not an insolvent, mentally retarded or an insane person. The co-option is from the members of the community alone,” the Bench said.

“Therefore, the affairs of the religious minority in the State i.e., Sikhs are left in the hands of the Sikhs alone in the same manner as was under the 1925 Act. The Haryana Act also provides for Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission in the same manner as is provided under the 1925 Act. The affairs of the Gurdwara are again required to be managed by the local Gurdwara Committee,” it pointed out.

There were two petitions against the Haryana Act – first by Harbhajan Singh – an elected representative of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee from Kurukshetra and the second one by the SGPC. Singh challenged the 2014 Act on the ground that it’s against the constitutional provisions, the statutory provisions of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 and was also divisive in its intention to create dissension among Sikhs. The petitioners also challenged the 2014 Act on the ground that it violated the fundamental right to religion of Sikhs.

The petitioners under contended that Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, the power to make laws in respect of the SGPC as an inter-state body corporate has been reserved with the central government only and there was no provision in law for any bifurcation by enacting a state legislation.

Terming it a hasty enactment, the petitioners had submitted that it’s not only against the provisions of the Punjab Reorganisation Act but was also divisive in its intention to create dissension amongst followers of Sikh religion.

The Centre had contended that only Parliament had the exclusive power to enact law on the subject. “There is no justification for the Haryana State Legislature to have passed a law on the same subject matter, taking away the jurisdiction of the Board constituted under the 1925 Act.”

The top court, however, dismissed both the petitions, saying the Haryana Assembly had the legislative competence to enact the law in question. “We do not find any merit in the writ petitions,” the Bench said.

“The SGPC became inter-State body corporate not because of Entry 44 List I (Union List under Seventh Schedule) but because of reorganisation of the territories of the erstwhile State of Punjab. Therefore, Entry 44 would have no applicability in respect of legislative competence of the State of Haryana to enact the Haryana Act,” the top court said.

Holding that incorporation of a statutory body fell in Entry 32 of List II (State List under Seventh Schedule), as also unincorporated religious and other societies,” the top court concluded that the Haryana Act was within the legislative competence of the state.

“Therefore, the transitional provisions i.e., the 1966 Act or the 1957 Act do not impinge upon the legislative competence of the State legislature to enact a law on the subjects mentioned in the List II,” it said.

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