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It`s Haryana vs Punjab-Centre on row over separate SGPC

Last Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 23:58

New Delhi/Chandigarh: The row over a separate SGPC in Congress-ruled Haryana on Friday grew into a full-blown battle between the state on one hand and Akali Dal-BJP ruled Punjab and the Centre on the other as Haryana refused to accept Union Home Ministry`s directive to have a Bill in this regard withdrawn.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of Haryana`s move to form a separate SGPC for the state and sought action against it.

The Centre shot off a letter to Haryana asking the state Governor to withdraw his assent granted to a Bill aiming to create a separate SGPC saying the state assembly did not have legal authority to enact such a law.

A copy of the letter was also sent to the Haryana Governor for action at his end. The Centre is awaiting a reply from Haryana government on its letter before taking further action.

However, Haryana contended that those against the separate SGPC in the state can move a court and refused to entertain the Centre`s request terming the Home Ministry`s letter as an "affront to the federal structure of India".

After meeting Modi on his return from Brazil, Badal met Home Minister Rajnath Singh at his residence where Finance Minister Arun Jaitley joined him and so did Prime Minister`s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra and Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami.

In a letter to Haryana Chief Secretary S C Choudhary, Goswami said the `Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014` passed by the state assembly on July 11, to which the Governor accorded his assent on July 14, has "no legal effect" and be withdrawn before further complications arise.

"Accordingly, the state government of Haryana may kindly bring the above facts to the notice of the Governor and request the Governor to withdraw the assent given by him to the bill in view of the fact that the state legislature had no legislative competence and the bill passed is void and of no legal effect before any or further complications arise," Goswami said in his letter to Choudhary.

Haryana Parliamentary Affairs Minister Randeep Singh
Surjewala said in Chandigarh "the letter by the Home Secretary questioning the competence of Haryana legislature to enact the law is an affront to federal structure of India."

State Chief Secretary S C Choudhary said that "in case anyone has an objection, he can challenge it in the court of law. The court would see whether it is legal and deliver its verdict."

Badal, for his part, said "we do not want to go to court as yet".

"Besides negating the constitutional right of the state assembly to legislate within its territorial jurisdiction, such an act by the BJP-led union government is an anti-thesis of their pre-poll promise of respecting the rights of the states," Surjewala told.

He alleged "it is nothing short of a conspiracy by BJP and SAD to divide the Sikh community of Haryana and hide multiple scams, misgovernance and misrule of SAD-BJP government in Punjab."

"We request the Prime Minister and Chief Minister Badal to respect the aspirations of the Sikhs of Haryana and also the competence of the state to legislate within its territory," he said.

Choudhary said "as the Governor has already given his assent to the bill, he cannot withdraw it after it has become a law. A notification for Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Bill 2014, has already been issued, thus completing the legislative process."

Badal told reporters in New Delhi after meeting Rajnath Singh that "we have asked the Home Minister to get us justice. The Home Minister has shown some hope and we are looking up to the Centre. We want a final solution to this issue. The (Haryana) Governor is a political man and that is why he has done such work. We do not wish to go to court as yet. We will wait for the Centre to work forward on this".

Haryana`s reaction came hours after Goswami in its letter to Choudhary said the bill passed by the state assembly has "no legal effect" and be withdrawn before any further complications arise.
The Centre`s letter was shot off after Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, along with party MPs, met Prime Minister Modi and top Union Ministers and held long deliberations with them.

The Centre had also sought legal opinion from the Attorney General of India who opined that Haryana state legislature had no jurisdiction to pass such a law.

"The state legislature is, therefore, denuded of any jurisdiction to pass any bill in respect of which only parliament has exclusive power to enact a law," the Attorney General said in his opinion to the Centre.

Terming the formation of a separate Committee to manage gurdwaras in the state as "unconstitutional" and "illegal", Badal has sought the Centre`s intervention in stopping Haryana from doing so as it violates the central act - Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, formed during the British times.

Punjab has been maintaining that Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) - which manages key Sikh shrines, was formed under the Central Gurdwara Act, 1925, during the British times and Haryana had no legal authority to enact a law for separate SGPC to manage gurdwaras in the state.

Haryana Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Bill, 2014` was passed by the state assembly on July 11. The Governor had accorded his assent on July 14. The Act has been notified now.

Choudhary said, "I find it very funny. I am amused. I cannot pass a judgement on collective wisdom of the state legislature."

Badal termed it as a move to "weaken and divide" the Sikh community while Akal Takht, the temporal seat of Sikhs, excommunicated three Sikh leaders, including Haryana`s Finance Minister H S Chattha, over the matter.

Haryana goes to assembly polls in October and the opposition leaders in the state have criticised Congress` decision, which they allege has been taken eyeing the Sikh votes.

Congress had made a poll promise in 2005 for separate SGPC but the issue had remained unsettled during Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda`s first term.

First Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 23:58

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