Chandigarh: In a big set back for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Punjab and Haryana high court today restored the voting rights of Sehajdhari (non-baptized) Sikhs in the Shirmoani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) (SGPC) polls.
With the court orders, it would be interesting to see the fate of recently constituted body of SGPC as Gurudwara Election Commission would now have to take the decision about the validity of the recently constituted highest Sikh body of the globe.
There was strong possibility that the SGPC would be cease to operate and fresh elections will be held to include the Sehajdhari Sikhs in the voters list.
The orders were passed by a full bench comprising Justice Surya Kant, Justice MMS Bedi and Justice Muttaci Jeyapaul of Punjab and Haryana high court while allowing a petition filed by the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation (SSF) and two others challenging a October 8, 2003 central notification which deprived Sehajdhari Sikhs of their voting rights in the SGPC polls.
The petitioners have mainly challenged the union government notification “whereby Sahjdhari Sikhs are not being considered as Sikhs in view of the impugned amended Section 49 and Section 92 of the Gurdwara Act.
The petitioners had submitted that the original Act declared Sahjdhari Sikhs as qualified electors for SGPC elections and the apex court had in numerous judgments held the state could not regulate the definition of religion.
It was also argued by the petitioners that the state authorities could not fetter the definition of Sikhs in general and Sahjdhari Sikhs in particular when religion was not within the bounds of any kind of legislation.
When politics in the Punjab was boiling with model code of conduct possibly coming into force anytime, the outcome was a big jolt for the ruling SAD, who during the time of NDA government at the Centre in 2003, was behind making the Central Government to van the Sehajdharis from the elections.
A Sehajdhari is a person who donâ€™t follow the Sikh religious prohibitions against haircuts and shaving, but otherwise follows the tenets of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Meanwhile, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Captain Amarinder Singh welcomed the High Court verdict on the voting rights of the Sehajdhari Sikhs setting aside the government of India notification of October 2003 debarring them from casting their votes in the elections to the SGPC.
If the newly elected body of the SGPC get dissolved, it would be a big set back for the SAD who had swept the polls by winning 157 out of 170.