No changes in election norms for SGPC, government clarifies


New Delhi : The central government Friday clarified that no changes had been made in the norms of elections to the Sikh religious body Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and that the exercise would be held according to schedule on Sep 18.

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The clarification came a day after a central government counsel told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that a 2003 notification preventing Sehajdhari or non-baptised Sikhs from voting in the SGPC elections had been withdrawn. The court was hearing pleas seeking voting rights to Sehajdhari or non-baptised Sikhs in the SGPC elections.

The issue was taken up in the Rajya Sabha by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as soon as the house met at 11 a.m.

Reading a statement on behalf of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government had not withdrawn the notification.

Bansal said no one had briefed the advocate, Harbhagwan Singh. ?In particular, he had no authority to make the statement that the notification would be withdrawn.?

?Government also wishes to make it clear that there is no proposal to resend or withdraw the notification dated Oct 8, 2003. Elections to the SGPC will be held as per schedule. Government will also bring the above facts to the notice of the high court today,? he said.

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the counsel’s statement had created tension in Punjab.

?In the last 24 hours, huge tension has been created. Impression is that government is interfering in a religious institution… is the government planning to proceed and take action,? Jaitley asked.

After Jaitley’s statement, Chidambaram got up to say that he would ask the senior counsel why he made such statement.

?I will call the senior counsel and ask him under what circumstances he made the statement. At this stage, I submit we need not attribute any motive to any one. Let us find out what has happened,? Chidambaram said.

?We are facilitating holding of election of the SGPC and I have been in constant touch with the government of Punjab. The schedule was laid down in consultation with the Election Commission.?

?This election will take place according to schedule, no one needs to have any apprehension on that,? he added.

On Thursday, the SGPC and other Sikh bodies had alleged a “conspiracy” against the community and slammed the government’s “attempt to interfere” in their affairs.

The SGPC, an elected religious body of Sikhs for control and management of the gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, has an annual budget of Rs.400 crore.

The notification barring non-baptised Sikhs from voting was passed Oct 8, 2003 during the National Democratic Alliance regime following a resolution adopted by the SGPC on March 30, 2002.

Around 60 lakh Sikh voters have registered for the SGPC polls, scheduled for Sep 18.