The Delhi government’s attempt to buy more time for elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) fell flat on Thursday when the Supreme Court dismissed its plea to grant six more months for completing the electoral process and reiterated that it must be done by December 31.
A bench led by Justice R M Lodha had in September directed the government and the DSGMC to make sure that elections to the committee posts are conducted by the end of this year. It had even recorded an undertaking by the government’s counsel that the elections will be completed within 10 weeks from then.
But on Thursday, senior advocates Soli Sorabjee and K T S Tulsi moved a fresh plea before the bench and sought extension of time. The application stated that amendments to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act were under way and that the amendments were so significant that it would be in the interest of justice to hold the elections after the new legislation is in place.
After deliberations, the state cabinet had approved the amended Act and Lt-Governor Tejendra Khanna had also given his consent. The file, as per the application, was now required to be sent to the Union Home Ministry for clearance before tabling it in the state Assembly.
The application added that one of the pertinent changes in the new legislation related to the manner of electing the DSGMC president and also to make his tenure for four years to accord him better control over affairs of the body.
Claiming that the amendments were being brought to respect the sentiments of the Sikh community, the government asked for time till June 30, 2013, to conduct elections.
But the bench was unimpressed with the reasons cited for extension of time. “We passed our order on September 17. You had more than four months to do whatever you wished. These things (amendments in the Act) will continue. L-G will have one view and others will have their own views. Election must be held on time,” the bench said.
“You are trying to take shelter under the proposed Bill but that can hardly be a ground. We cannot help it. You will have to conduct the election by end of this year,” it said.
The bench turned down a request by the counsels to add in its dismissal order that the elections will be subject to the new legislation, so that the amendments are brought into force even though the elections are held under the old regime.
“We have already disposed of the matter and there is nothing pending before us. How can we say anything like this? Let there be a separate plea whenever it is raised in a proper manner,” the court said.
Sheila Dikshit’s government and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal have been at loggerheads over management of gurdwara affairs, seen as a route to control the Sikh vote bank in the capital. The government’s plan to amend the Act to allow direct election to the post of president has kicked off a row.
Badal has accused the Delhi government of interfering in the management of gurdwaras to foist loyalists into the committee. He said the government was delaying elections to the DSGMC, currently led by Akali Dal (Delhi) which enjoys the support of the ruling Congress in Delhi.