HSGMC Row: Akal Takht to form mediation panel

New Delhi: On a day the Supreme Court directed status quo (as of 2.30pm on Thursday) on the raging inter-state gurdwara row, Akal Takht, the supreme temporal seat of the Sikhs, said in Amritsar it would soon form a panel to mediate between the two sides. A Supreme Court Bench has posted the next hearing for August 25. The SC direction to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) means that none of them would try to dislodge the other from any of the 52 notified shrines in Haryana. The Bench, headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha, also directed Haryana’s Director General of Police and superintendents of police to ensure that law and order “is not disturbed in the state/districts in any manner whatsoever”.

The Bench, which included Justices MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph, also directed the SGPC and the HSGMC to open new bank accounts and deposit all the proceeds, including offerings by devotees, of the notified gurdwaras in their “management and possession.” The Haryana government submitted a status report to the Bench, saying the HSGMC had so far taken possession of five gurdwaras — Patshahi Gurdwara at Cheeka in Kaithal district, three small shrines (at Bani Badarpur, Ladwa and Salempur in Kurukshetra district) and Jhinwarheri Gurdwara in Yamunanagar district. This was done in a peaceful manner as there was no resistance to the move following a notification of the HSGM Act 2014. Appearing for SGPC, senior advocate AK Ganguly maintained that only the gurdwara at Gulha Cheeka had changed hands from SGPC control. The Bench asked Haryana’s senior counsel Raju Ramachandran to demonstrate the state’s legislative competence to enact the HSGM Act. As Ramachandran sought time, the Bench posted the next hearing for August 25, the date acceptable to all sides – the PIL petitioner, an SGPC member from Kurukshetra who has challenged the state law, and the SGPC.Of the 52 notified gurdwaras in Haryana, eight are categorised as historic shrines and placed in the first schedule. On the second list are 17 shrines with incomes above Rs 20 lakh a year.

The rest 27 are on the third list. The Bench noted that an18-day gap for the next hearing would help all litigants argue the case “dispassionately and with a cool head.” During the arguments, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi presented an intelligence report from the Union Home Ministry stating that the situation was “very serious.” The Centre’s note, containing the report, also traced the developments leading to the notification of the HSGM Act ignoring the Home Ministry’s advice against it. Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for petitioner Harbhajan Singh, cited various provisions of the Constitution, the Punjab Re-organisation Act 1966, the first state re-organisation Act and various SGPC Acts since 1925.

Source: The Tribune

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