The Lok Sabha passed the Sikh Gurdwara (Amendment) Bill, 2016, on Monday. With this, the Bill — already having been passed by Rajya Sabha — has been approved by Parliament and now awaits the President’s sanction.Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)  have demanded that Sahejdari Sikhs should not be allowed to vote.

The Bill proposes removing an exception made for Sahajdharis in 1944 that allowed them to vote in elections for the Board and committees instituted under the Act.

Rajya Sabha passed the Bill in the first half of Parliament’s Budget Session last month.

The Union Cabinet recently approved a proposal of the Home Ministry to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, with effect from October 8, 2003.’

The 2003 notification had previously amended the Act, but the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed it in December 2011. The court however left it to the legislature to decide if the Act needed amendment.

Congress leader Ravneet Singh Bittoo opposed the amendment.

“The Sikh Gurudwaras Act should be renamed as Badal Gurudwara Act. You are trying to divide families through conspiracy. You are doing wrong with 70 lakh Sikhs who had voting rights in SGPC for 60 years. …You are dividing the Sikh community, already in minority,” he said.

SGPC poll controversy

The SGPC elections were last held in 2011, which were challenged by the Sehajdhari Federation after the Sehajdharis’ right to vote in the gurdwara elections was withdrawn by the Centre, reportedly on the advice of the ruling SAD. In the absence of any general house, courts allowed the 15-member SGPC executive elected in November 2010 to conduct day-to-day functioning of the religious body. It is by virtue of this ruling that Avtar Singh Makkar and other office-bearers have continued to hold the office since then.

Who are Sehajdhari Sikhs

A Sehajdhari is a person who has chosen the path of Sikhism, but is not baptised. He believes in all tenets of Sikhism and teachings of the Sikh Gurus, but may or may not adorn the five symbols of the Sikh faith. (With inputs from PTI)