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Posted at: Jan 18, 2015, 2:24 AM; last updated: Jan 18, 2015, 2:13 AM (IST)

Experts question legality of Nandgarh’s removal

Claim SGPC executive only a caretaker body, say new House yet to take over as Sehajdhari appeal pending in SC

Quote-unquote

  • We strongly condemn the removal of Jathedar Nandgarh. It is the most heinous act of the Badal family perpetrated at the behest of the RSS —Pritpal Singh, us gurdwara panel coordinator
  • A sad day for all those who are fighting to uphold the distinct identity of the Sikhs. Badals are inflicting wounds on the soul and body of the Panth —Kanwar Pal Singh, dal khalsa spokesman
  • This is what happens when 170 odd persons, who are controlled by their political bosses, bypass Sikh traditions as well as the community —Gurpreet Singh, treasurer, guru singh sabha
  • The dismissal is unethical and illegal. The current SGPC is only a caretaker body in view of an ongoing case in the Supreme Court —Ashok Singh Bagrian, sikh intellectual
Experts question legality of Nandgarh’s removal

SGPC members at the executive meeting that announced Nandgarh’s ouster, in Fatehgarh Sahib on Saturday. A Tribune photograph

Perneet Singh

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 17

The SGPC may have removed Takht Sri Damdama Sahib Jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, but several prominent personalities have raised a question over the legality of the decision citing the new SGPC House was yet to come into being following the Sehajdhari voting row.

As an appeal was pending before it, the Supreme Court told the SGPC executive committee of 2010 to function till further orders.

Former DSGMC chief Paramjit Singh Sarna said they would challenge Nandgarh’s removal in the apex court. He maintained the SGPC executive was only functioning as a caretaker body and, thus, it did not have right to take a major decision like removing a Jathedar.

Noted lawyer HS Phoolka said even if the top court had allowed the executive committee to function as per the Sikh Gurdwara Act, it should have sought permission from the court while taking the decision.

Former Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission chairman KS Patti maintained that the SGPC executive had “exceeded its brief” by removing Nandgarh. He said the 150 members who submitted a memorandum seeking Nandgarh’s removal could not be termed as SGPC members till the new House officially came into existence.

Also, the move by SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur and member Karnail Singh Panjoli to stay away from the executive is being seen by many as their support to the original Nanakshahi calendar. Bhaur and Panjoli had come out against the replacement of the original Nanakshahi calendar in 2010 as well. They had taken a firm stand against the amended Nanakshahi calendar when it came up for discussion in the SGPC executive in 2010.

While others signed on dotted line “under pressure” from the Akali Dal, they had walked out after giving a dissenting note. Panjoli said, “The RSS is trying to finish off the distinct identity of the Sikhs and the original Nanakshahi calendar is being targeted under this conspiracy. We want the original Nanakshahi calendar of 2003 to be implemented. Nandgarh was raising voice for it, but it didn’t go down well with the anti-Panthic forces.” He said the decision taken by the SGPC executive was not in Panthic interest, and that was why he didn’t participate in the meeting. Bhaur could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts.

Who appoints jathedars?

It is the SGPC that appoints or removes the jathedars of Takhts. Earlier, the jathedars were appointed in consultation with different Sikh institutions and eminent persons of the community.

For the last around two decades, it is the ruling Akali Dal that has been taking a call on their appointment or removal. Nandgarh is not the first to be removed unceremoniously after he took on the ruling party.

But, the SGPC seems to have woken up to the issue as it has decided today to constitute a panel to frame guidelines for appointment, tenure, working sphere and removal of Takht Jathedars.

Reason behind removal

Following an unprecedented chaos over the date of Guru Gobind Singh’s birth anniversary, the ruling Akali Dal did a rethink on the calendar issue and contemplated to revert to the Bikrami Calendar. Nandgarh resented the Akali move to implement the Bikrami calendar and advocated the need to revert to the original Nanakshahi calendar.

Nanakshahi vs Bikrami

The original Nanakshahi calendar, implemented in 2003, is based on solar charts. It had fixed dates for all major Gurpurbs except three and all 12 ‘sangrands’.

Prior to the Nanakshahi calendar, the Sikhs were observing their events as per the Bikrami calendar, which is based on lunar charts and the dates of Gurpurbs and ‘sangrands’ kept on changing every year. The Nanakshahi calendar was amended in 2010.

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