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Punjab: SGPC has no record of 328 birs it published, finds probe ordered by Akal Takht

Further, the 1,000-page probe report, which was submitted to the Akal Takht on August 23, has revealed that 186 birs were published without getting due permission.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | August 24, 2020 11:01:04 pm
The SGPC president did not explain the basis on which criminal proceedings were ordered against most of the ground level staff. (File)

A probe ordered last month by acting Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh into allegations that the SGPC had covered up information of Guru Granth Sahib birs missing from its publication department has revealed that there are no records of 328 birs published by the apex body in-charge of managing Sikh shrines. The SGPC is the sole publisher of Guru Granth Sahib. Further, the 1,000-page probe report, which was submitted to the Akal Takht on August 23, has revealed that 186 birs were published without getting due permission. The probe has also faulted a private audit team hired by SGPC for failing to detect such an irregularity for all these years.

The probe, ordered on July 17, looked into the records of the SGPC’s publication department from April 1, 2013 to May 31, 2020.

Main contents of the report were made public after Sikh Jathedars Giani Harpreet Singh (who represents two Takhts), Jathedar Giani Raghubir Singh (Takh Kesgarh Sahib), Giana Ranjit Singh (Takht Patna Sahib) and a representative of Takht Hazoor Sahi, Nanded, met in Amritsar on Monday.

The Sikh Jathedars have now ordered the SGPC to call an emergency interim committee meeting and take action against errant SGPC officials.

What does the report say

The report says that the probe found that record of Guru Granth Sahib birs was not properly maintained in the store ledgers. It claims that “repeated tempering with record has been found in the ledgers”.

The report says, “After checking ledgers from financial year 2013-14 onwards, it was found that more than 328 birs were missing from records. These were the birs for which officials received permission for publication, but it could not found to whom these birs were issued after publication.”

It adds that “it has been also found that some SGPC officials printed copies of Guru Granth Sahib and issued these to buyers without any bill. At least in two instances, 61 and 125 birs were published with left-out usable raw material. Raw material can be used for publishing of birs but only after permission from authorities. However, total 186 birs published from raw material were sold without maintaining any record”. The report goes on to add that the number of such birs could be higher, claiming that there is misreporting of bills and vouchers that has come to light.

Pointing out that there was no audit conducted after 2016, the report says that the probe has found tempering with the ledgers. “It is an act of great dishonesty and negligence,” the Sikh Jathedars, who met on Monday, said about the report.

The Jathedars added: “Then SGPC interim committee and SGPC chief secretary didn’t make any regret prayer in front of Guru Granth Sahib after fire broke out in the publication department on May 19, 2016. Both parties have been asked to give their clarification why this prayer was not held.”

Why was the probe ordered

After his retirement earlier this year, a former assistant supervisor posted in SGPC’s publication department, Kanwaljit Singh, had alleged that 267 Birs of Guru Granth Sahib are missing from the SGPC’s publication department record. He had accused SGPC officials of ignoring and covering up the matter.

Later, Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) had alleged that these birs had been burnt in a fire at the publication department in 2016.

The SGPC had admitted that its employee Kanwaljit Singh had informed authorities about the missing birs, but had denied allegations that it was hiding the actual number of birs burnt in 2016 due to “political reasons”.

PHRO activist Sarabjit Singh Verka had alleged that these birs had got burnt in the 2016 fire and SGPC had not revealed the actual damage as the next Assembly elections were round the corner.

The probe ordered on July 17, was to be conducted by a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Navita Singh (retired). But after Navita Singh pulled out, Giani Harpreet Singh on July 30 appointed Telangana HC advocate Ishar Singh as the chief investigator and appointed another lawyer, Harpreet Kaur, and CA Harleen Kaur, as his assistants.

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