Affairs of Gurdwara are again required to be managed by the local Gurdwara Committee: Supreme Court 

Affairs of Gurdwara are again required to be managed by the local Gurdwara Committee: Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court held that the affairs of the Gurdwara are again required to be managed by the local Gurdwara Committee.

Background 

The writ petitions are preferred challenging the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 20141 , creating a separate juristic entity for the management of historical Gurdwaras in the State of Haryana mentioned in Schedule I; Gurdwaras having income of more than Rs.20 lakhs in Schedule II and the Gurdwaras having income of less than Rs.20 lakhs in Schedule III. 

Arguments 

Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the Haryana Act is practically similar to the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 except some contextual changes.

He contended that Article 246 read with Entry 32 List II of the Seventh Schedule and Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 cannot confer power on the Haryana Legislative Assembly to make the impugned law.

It is also averred by the counsel that the impugned law violates Article 26 of the Constitution of India as it purports to take out specified Gurdwaras and the management of their properties from the control of the Board under the 1925 Act.

The State of Haryana or the Haryana Committee argued that the Court in its order while holding the maintainability of the present writ petition before it held that two aspects need to be examined; first, whether any fundamental right of the petitioner is invaded or violated and, second, unless and until violation of the fundamental right of the petitioner is found, the Court need not go into the question of vires of the impugned Act.  

Decision 

A division bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vikram Nath noted that the writ petitioners, SGPC and the Union have taken one line of argument that the Haryana State Legislature does not have any power to legislate in respect of an inter-state corporation which is evident from the reading of sub-section (3) of Section 72 of the 1966 Act.

The court said that the 1956 Act or the 1966 Act empowers the Central Government to issue directions to make the inter-state entity functional, but the Central Government has not been empowered to legislate in respect of such inter-State bodies which came to be operational in one or more States due to the reorganisation of the States.

It was held by the court that the power of the Centre to issue directions under Section 72 of the 1966 Act is indeed a transitional provision to ensure smooth and continuous functioning of a body corporate so that it is not paralyzed on becoming an inter-State body corporate due to reorganisation of the erstwhile State of Punjab. 

The court added that the directions contemplated by Section 72 relates to functioning and operation of such body corporate. A competent State legislature is not deprived of its power to legislate on the subjects falling within its jurisdiction in terms of List II of the Seventh Schedule.

The bench observed that even if it is assumed that the Haryana Act is in furtherance of Entry 28 of List III, the same cannot be said to be void for the reason that it has not been kept reserved for the assent of the President.

“The Haryana Act also provides for Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission in the same manner as is provided under the 1925 Act. The affairs of the Gurdwara are again required to be managed by local Gurdwara Committee. Since the affairs of the Sikh minority in the State are to be managed by the Sikhs alone, therefore, it cannot be said to be violative of any of the fundamental rights conferred under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution” the court said. 

The court dismissed the writ petitions.

Case title: Harbhajan Singh v/s State of Haryana & Ors.

Citation: WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 735 OF 2014

Click here to  read the Order/Judgment 

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