The Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notices to the Centre and Punjab government on a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of a legislation that barred Sehajdhari (non-baptised) Sikhs from voting in polls to SGPC, the apex Sikh religious body. Justice Mahesh Grover sought the response of the Centre and the state by August 10 on the PIL filed by the Sehajdhari Sikh Party through its chief Paramjeet Singh Ranu challenging the Sikh Gurdwara Amendment Act 2016.The legislation recently enacted by Parliament barred 70 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) elections.
The petitioner alleged that neither proper facts nor any figures were placed before the Home Minister to take such “a drastic step just to further political cause of NDA partner Shiromani Akali Dal led by Parkash Singh Badal”.It was not born in mind that by amending the Act more than 70 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs were being deprived of their voting rights in the SGPC elections, the petitioner contended.The Sehajdharis have demanded the quashing of the Amendment by which the provison of Section 49 and 92 of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 has been amended retrospectively from October eight, 2003 by removing the exemption given to Sehajdhari Sikhs which is an abuse of power by the central government, he contended.
“Proper procedure has not been carried out as per the rules of Parliament in the Amendment Bill,” he contended. In the amendment bill the “objects” were given but no “reasons” were forthcoming which were mandatory for a bill. It should have been mentioned why the exemption given to Sehajdhari Sikhs was being removed especially when this right was conferred on them by competent legislature after due deliberations in 1944 by amending the Gurdwara Act, the petitioner said.
The petitioner alleged that there ought to have been some material or cogent reasons or change in circumstance before the NDA government to undertake this action.”It was a clear case of political expediency and appeasement,” he alleged.The petitioner sought that in pursuant to quashing of the amendment Act, 2016 thereby restoring their rights to vote, suitable directions may be issued to the government to update the voter list of SGPC by including Sehajdhari Sikhs and to hold fresh elections for constitution of the SGPC.