SC orders status quo on gurdwara issue

SC orders status quo on gurdwara issue

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a status quo with regard to control over gurdwaras in Haryana and asked its police chief to take all “precautionary measures” to ensure that law and order was not disturbed in view of the tussle between the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) and the new panel.

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice R M Lodha also directed for opening of a separate bank account tokeep all the offerings and donations received in Sikh shrines across Punjab and Haryana.

The court passed its directions on a petition challenging constitutional validity of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Act, 2014, exercising control over all gurdwaras so far managed by SGPC.

The Congress government in Haryana passed the Act on July 11. Governor Jagannath Pahadia accorded his assent to the bill on July 17, days before demitting office.

The court, meanwhile, asked Haryana to argue on August 25, the next date of hearing, on the point of legislative competence to pass the law envisaging separate management of gurdwaras in the state.

“Time is a great healer. Proceed with cool head and act  more disspassionately and forcefully,” the bench suggested to the counsel, representing different parties.

Appearing for Haryana, senior advocates Raju Ramachandran and Manjeet Singh submitted that the police had identified five flashpoints and were doing their best to control the situation. He said that the situation in Haryana was tense but under control and the state government was committed to prevent any untoward incident.

An 11-member executive committee with Jagdish Singh Jhinda as its president and Didar Singh Nalvi as its senior vice-president had already taken control over 6 to 7 shrines out of total 52 gurdwaras.

Taking up status report filed by Haryana, the bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said, “We are directing to maintain status quo to subject gurdwaras as existing today at 02:30 pm in all respect.” 

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner Harbhajan Singh, submitted that the SGPC was an inter-state corporation within the meaning of Section 2 of the Inter-State Corporations Act, 1957 and as such it was only the Union of India which had legislative competence to enact any Act in terms of Entry 44 of List 1 of the seventh schedule of the Constitution.

He also referred to Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 which stated that the power to make law in respect of the SGPC was reserved exclusively to the central government and there was no provision for bifurcation of the said body by enacting the state legislation.

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