NEW DELHI (TIP): The Supreme Court on September 15 disposed of a petition by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) over Sehajdhari Sikhs’ right to vote in SGPC elections as the case had become irrelevant following a new central law taking away their right.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice AM Khanwilkar said there was no point in hearing the case just for the sake of “academic interest.” The SGPC had come to the SC challenging the December 20, 2011, judgment of the Punjab and Haryana Court restoring Sehajdharis’ right to vote.
The HC had ensured this by quashing the Centre’s October 8, 2003, notification disenfranchising the Sehajdharis. The HC had explained that the Centre could not take away the right, given under the Gurdwara Act 1925, through an official notification.
In the light of the HC judgment, the Centre got the 1925 Act amended in Parliament and notified the new law on May 5, 2016, denying Sehajdharis the right to vote. Subsequently, the SGPC moved an application in the apex court, pleading for allowing its appeal against the HC verdict on the basis of the new law.
Arguing for the SGPC, senior counsel AK Ganguly and Satinder Gulati pleaded with the Bench to reinstate the committee elected in the September 18, 2011, SGPC elections. But the court did not pass any order.
On March 30, 2013, the SC had asked the November 2010 executive committee headed by Avtar Singh Makkar to manage the gurdwaras and other SGPC institutions as the Sehajdharis had not been allowed to participate in the 2011 election of the new Board. The SGPC elections are held once every five years.
Appearing for Sehajdhari Sikhs Federation (SSF), senior counsel Sushil Jain sought liberty to challenge the validity of the amendment to the Gurdwara Act. The Bench said the SSF was free to do so without the court’s nod.
In view of the HC verdict and the SC’s September 2011 order, the Centre was reluctant to convene the first meeting of the 170-member SGPC Board and came to the SC seeking its clarification despite notifying the new Board on December 17, 2011.
The SGPC also approached the apex court, seeking a direction to the Centre to convene the first meeting of the new Board and thereby facilitate election of its office-bearers —president, senior vice-president, junior vice-president, general secretary and 11 executive committee members.