Saturday, Nov 22, 2014

SGPC row: SC steps in to restrain Haryana

Members of HSGMC at Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi in Kaithal district of Haryana, on Thursday. (Source: Sumit Malhotra) Members of HSGMC at Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi in Kaithal district of Haryana, on Thursday. (Source: Express photo by Sumit Malhotra)
Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Posted: August 8, 2014 12:12 am | Updated: August 8, 2014 8:23 am

Stepping in to defuse the situation, the Supreme Court on Thursday restrained Haryana’s new Gurdwara Management Committee from taking over any more gurdwaras in the state and ordered a status quo.

A bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha said the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), which is currently managing most of the 52 gurdwaras in the state, shall also be bound by the status quo order.

A total of 52 gurdwaras, under the new law by Haryana, have been categorised under three Schedules. Schedule I has eight gurdwaras that are historic in nature. Schedule II has 17 gurdwaras which have an annual income of more than Rs 20 lakh and Schedule III has 27 gurdwaras which have an annual income of less than Rs 20 lakh.

“We are satisfied that status quo with respect to subject gurdwaras, mentioned in Schedules I, II and III of the impugned Act, shall be maintained by all concerned parties. We therefore direct SGPC and Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) to maintain status quo as existing at 2.30 pm on August 7, 2014 in all respect,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

The court asked Haryana’s Director General of Police and Superintendents of Police of all the districts to ensure maintenance of law and order across the state. It observed that it was the “constitutional obligation” of the state to have law and order situation under control and added that nobody should try to forcibly take possession of the shrines only because they thought it the correct thing to do.

The bench also asked HSGMC and SGPC to open separate bank accounts to keep the offerings of the 52 gurdwaras till the time the court rules on the validity of the law enacted by the Haryana government last month.

While adjourning the matter for August 25, the court said: “Time is the healer. Nobody will take law in their own hands. All of you proceed with a cool head now. We are sure you (counsel for parties) will argue (on the next date) more dispassionately.”

The court passed the order a day after clashes were reported in Haryana as supporters of the newly formed committee tried to forcibly take over the ‘Chhevin Patshahi’, one of Haryana’s prime gurdwaras. The police had to use batons, water cannons and tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. All notified gurdwaras in India are currently under the SGPC.

Hours after the Supreme Court’s interim order, both sides called truce.

SGPC’s former president Bibi Jagir Kaur, who had been camping in Kurukshetra for the past three days, told reporters, “This is the victory of truth. The Haryana government’s conspiracy has failed. The gurdwaras which continued…

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