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'Incumbent SGPC president to run affairs of body'

Delhi,Immigration/Law/Rights,Religion, Fri, 30 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday directed that Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee's (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar would run the affairs of the Sikh religious body along with other officer bearers.


Modifying its order of Feb 17, 2012, the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale directed that the "executive committee under the presidentship of Avtar Singh Makkar shall continue to function and discharge its duties as per the terms of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925".


In its order of Feb 17, 2012, the apex court had said that the "Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for which a notification has been issued by the Central Government Dec 17, 2011 shall continue to function as it has been hitherto functioning from the date of its constitution."


Avtar Singh Makkar was elected SGPC president for one year in November 2010.


The court direction came in the wake of an application by the SGPC seeking direction to the Central government to convene the first meeting of the Sikh religious body's board which was elected Sep 22, 2011 as per the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925.


On the other hand, the government also moved an application seeking clarification whether it could call the first meeting of the SGPC Board for the purpose of making it functional after the Punjab and Haryana Higth Court had quashed the union government's 2003 notification excluding "Sehajdhari" (Heterodox) Sikhs from the SGPC electoral college.


The members of the SGPC board who sought to be made functional, were elected during the election held Sep 18, 2011, the results of which were announced Sep 22, 2011.


The government by its Dec 17, 2011 notification had constituted the newly-elected SGPC board having 170 elected members and 15 co-opted members.


However, the Centre found itself in a bind following the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict of Dec 20, 2012, by which it quashed the Centre's Oct 8, 2003, notification disfranchising Sehajdhari Sikhs from the electoral college for electing the SGPC Board every five years.


Earlier on Sep 16, 2011, the apex court while permitting the holding of the SGPC election with the exclusion of Sehajdhari Sikhs from the electoral college in the wake of 2003 notification had said: "In view of the sensitive nature of the matter and the statements made at the Bar, it is clarified that the result of the election to be


held would be subject to the result of the litigation before the Punjab and Haryana High court."


In wake of the Dec 20, 2011 verdict of the High Court, the Centre was in a predicament about whether to issue or not to issue the notification for the convening the first meeting of the newly-elected Board where new office bearers of SGPC are elected.


The SGPC office bearers include its president, senior vice-president, vice-president and the secretary.


Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran told the court that now "our problem is that we can't appoint an administrator" to run the affairs of the SGPC.


Appearing for the SGPC, senior counsel A.K. Ganguly pressed for direction to the Centre to issue notification for the first meeting of the newly elected Board. He also sought the stay of the high court verdict of the Dec 20, 2011.


Justice Lodha said that the Sep 16, 2011 order was a consent order where both the SGPC and Sehajdhari Sikhs Federation agreed to the continuation of the SGPC elections subject to the outcome of the proceedings before the high court where in 2003 notification excluding Sehajdhari Sikhs from the electoral college was under challenge.


Following the high court verdict, the court said that the "electoral rolls became defective and the House constituted on the basis of those electoral rolls too becomes defective".


On the staying of the high court verdict, the court said that "when a major chunk of voters have been excluded then you have to show us strong grounds to stay the verdict."


Posing the question "what can be done to ensure that the work of the SGPC is not affected", the court directed the executive committee under the incumbent SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar to run the affairs of the religious body.


The court directed the listing of the matter on July 26, 2012.


The logjam in making the newly-elected board function arose Dec 20, 2011.


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