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Tuesday, December 14, 1999


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Maruti Baleno: Sleek, Silent, Spirited

Sikh leaders, scholars oppose provisions of Gurdwara Act
AGENCIES


NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 13: The Draft Bill on All India Sikh Gurdwara Act (AISGA) before the Centre for introduction in Parliament has come in for severe criticism by many Sikh leaders and intellectuals, especially on the proposal of appointment of head priests of Akal Takht and four other superior Takhts by a central board.

``Sikh community is against the proposed draft as it has many shortcomings,'' former Supreme Court judge Justice Kuldip Singh said here,adding that any bill which would curtail existing provisions of the appointment and removal of jathedars of Akal Takht and the four other Takhts, would be opposed by the community.

Stating that Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees religious freedom to every citizen, Justice Singh warned the Sikh community not to invite Parliament's interference in their religious affairs as ``it will jeopardise their freedom.'' The Draft Bill prepared by a commission appointed by the Punjab Government was sent to the Union Home Ministry by the panel in August.The ministry had sent it to the Minorities Commission and various states to know their views before its introduction in Parliament.

Former SGPC Chief and President of Sarv Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) Gurcharan Singh Tohra coming down heavily on the attempt to interfere in the Sikh religious management, said, ``There is no viable alternative to the present system.''

The proposed Act, based on one of the terms of the Rajiv-Longowal accord in 1985 when militancy was at its peak in Punjab, was initially drafted by the Centre in 1986 but was never introduced in Parliament due to criticism from various quarters and the situation prevailing then in the state. The fresh draft sent to the Centre by the Chief Commission of Gurdwara Elections in Punjab, headed by Justice (retd) Harbans Singh, proposed replacement of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee (SGPC), Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Managment Committee (DSGMC) and Gurdwara Management Committees (GMCs) in various states by a three-tier Gurdwara ManagementSystem under a central board, state boards and regional boards.

Over 500 educational, health and vocational institutions being run by SGPC, DSGMC and various GMCs in the country would come under the control of these boards under the proposed Act. All members of the central board would be nominated by the state and regional boards to be constituted on the basis of direct election by the Sikh Sangat.

According to the Draft Bill, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh would be under a single state board while Delhi and Uttar Pradesh would each have separate state boards and rest of the states would be covered under regional boards.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

   

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