Read about All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill
Ahead of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s (SGPC) next move to counter the Supreme Court (SC) decision of validating the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Act, 2014, voices are being raised in favour of the All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill, which was drafted but never tabled in Parliament.
About All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill
- The draft of All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill was initially prepared by Justice Harbans Singh in 1977 on the persuasion of the SAD during the Janata Dal government. It was sent to the Union Home Ministry in 1979, but was put on the back burner
- The issue again gained limelight during the Rajiv-Longowal Accord in 1985 and then CM Surjit Singh Barnala constituted a review committee headed by minister Natha Singh Dalam. However, the Barnala government was dismissed in 1987
- Years later, Justice Harbans Singh procured a copy of the abandoned draft of Dalam committee. After merging his previous draft recommendations, he had sent the revised draft as “All India Gurdwaras Bill, 1999” to the Union Home Ministry with a copy to the SGPC
- To vet it, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had sent it to Justice KS Tiwana, who had sent it back to the Sikh body in 2002 with his comments. It has since been lying in a dormant state
The proposed dispensation of this Bill was to bring all gurdwaras in the country under the control of a unified body of Sikhs. It would have consolidated the status of the SGPC as an apex body controlling regional and state-level boards and elected local committees across the country.
Experts said the draft shuttled between the Centre, the Punjab Government and the SGPC many times. Last time it happened in 2002 when it was sent back to the Punjab Government and the SGPC for comments. Since then, it has been lying in a dormant state.
A panel was constituted to review it, but except for holding meetings, no thought was spared to implement the recommendations of the panel.
SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami, who was incidentally one of the members of the panel, said the Bill was taken up with the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2002-2003, but it failed to materialise.
Dr Kashmir Singh, former head of the Department of Law, GND University and member of the panel who had contributed in preparing the draft of the All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill, said filing a review petition in the SC would yield “negligible outcome”.
Dr Singh, who has authored books on the subject of laws of gurdwaras in India, said: “If the Sikhs virtually want to consolidate the SGPC, the efforts should be made to revive the defunct All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill.”
BJP leader Sarchand Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention. “I apprised the PM of this long-pending demand and requested him to fulfil it. The SC judgment would restrain the jurisdiction of SGPC to Punjab only,” he said.
Damdami Taksal head Harnam Singh Khalsa, too, voiced similar concerns and demanded the implementation of the All India Sikh Gurdwaras Bill.