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Gurdwaras in Haryana: What the SC verdict means for Sikhs!

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed the legality of the 2014 Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management Act). The Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) now has the authority to manage every gurdwara in the state as a result of the judgement.

The demand for HSGMC
The Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management Act) was brought in based on a nearly two-decade old demand by a section of the Sikh community. The demand was for a separate committee to manage gurdwara in the state instead of being subcontracted to an existing committee. Jagdish Jhinda, a former president of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC), recalled that the Congress leaders at the time had pledged to create a separate committee for the state gurdwaras if the party won the 2005 Assembly elections. Finally, a law establishing the HSGMC was introduced in July 2014 by the then-Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress administration.

The subsequent law
According to the 2014 Bill Haryana introduced in this respect, its purpose was to establish a legal process via which the state’s gurdwaras may be efficiently and permanently placed under the Sikhs’ sole authority. It made note of the fact that the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925’s rules applied to them. The new legislation established their correct usage, administration, control, and financial management improvements, and it went into force on July 14, 2014.

The legal challenge and arguments
The constitutional validity of the Haryana Act was challenged by an elected member of the SGPC. The petitioners claimed that the said Act violated the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 and was intended to divide the Sikhs. It was also argued that the Parliament alone is empowered to make such a law. In the SC, the central government too stated that Parliament had exclusive power to enact a law on this subject.

Punjab government has filed an affidavit seeking an order upholding the competence of the state legislature to enact legislation in relation to gurdwaras in their respective states. The Punjab government said that the 1925 Act is an act of the Punjab Legislature and was enacted for the administration of certain Sikh Gurdwara within the state.

The final verdict
The Haryana Act had left the religious affairs of the Sikhs exclusively in the hands of the Sikh community, the Supreme Court has ruled. The Act was within the state’s legislative competence and therefore did not violate Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution, the court said. It rejected Centre’s argument that the SGPC became an inter-state body corporate because of reorganisation of the territories of erstwhile state of Punjab.

What happens next?
The HSGMC president Jagdish Singh Jhinda said that now the Sikhs of Haryana will be able to take their political decisions more independently instead of looking towards the Badal family of Punjab. The SGPC, meanwhile, has decided to file a review petition following the SC judgment. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Akali Dal) has called the Act an an attack on the ‘panth’.



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