ACHIEVEMENT ‘PAR EXCELLENCE’ – But is the gain going to be short lived?


–  But is the gain going to be short lived?

Gurcharanjit Singh Lamba

Editor- Sant Sipahi 

Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court held:

  • In case of a conflict the courts could enter into “religious thicket” to determine the do’s and don’t’s of the religion by relying upon the views expressed  by the spokespersons of the said religion.
  • Maintaining unshorn hair was an essential component of the Sikh religion.
  • Admissions under the Sikh minority community quota could be restricted to candidates maintaining “sikhi swaroop” or keeping their hair unshorn.
  • Religion must be perceived as it is, and not as someone would like it to be…
  • Once a court arrives at the conclusion that a particular aspect of a religion is fundamental and integral, as per the followers of the faith, it must be given effect to, irrespective of the views expressed on the said issue, based either on science or logic… It is not for the court to determine whether it is forward looking or retrograde. 

Judgment has finally been delivered. The week when the entire Sikh world is observing the quarter-centennial of infamous Operation Blue Star, this judgment has come as a surprise relief. The Sikhs had been nurturing feeling of being dismayed with the three wings of the democracy Legislature, Executive and Press. This decision has helped to reinforce faith in the fourth wing the Judiciary.

 But is this gain going to be long lasting. SGPC has got this relief to enforce Sikh Code of Conduct being a recognized minority institution. So far the Sikhs are recognized as a minority community. But if the ensuing move of the Government takes shape then in the future neither there will be any Sikh minority institution in Punjab nor there will be any minority quota. Government has already set into motion an amendment to Constitution. With this 103rd Amendment the basis of determining the minority status of the community will not be on the National level but will be on the State level. The implication of this will be that the Sikhs will not be considered minority in Punjab and hence will not have  any minority quota in the minority institutions. Is SGPC or Shiroamni Akali Dal ready for this new challenge? Jains have already extricated themselves from the rigors of this new ensuing Constitutional amendment. 

No other case has aroused the emotions, passions and sentiments of the entire Sikh community as this case has been able to do. But when the true story of this case will be written it will reflect all shades of machinations, interpolation of decisions and resolutions, sabotaging and Machiavellian moves by none other than the Sikh leaders themselves.

Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee headed by Avtar Singh Makkar has come out victorious from the hirsute battle of Sabhraon. Despite faltering, hesitating, vacillating and succumbing to the internal and external pressures many a time, and at time pushed to the wall by none other than own comrades, Makkar  came back to stand up and take on. The result – This Historic Judgment. 

Apparently this is clear vindication of the stand taken by SGPC. Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court in its landmark judgment on 30th May, amongst other things, also unambiguously pronounced this. 

The issue for adjudication was whether Guru Ram Das Medical College was justified in denying admission to those Sikh students who, despite clear requirement of keeping unshorn hair as laid down in the syllabus, failed to fulfill this criteria.  

Guru Ram Das Medical College an institution of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar had the right to admit certain number of Sikh students under its minority quota. The law laid down by the Government was that the minority institution could even create sub-quota within the prescribed quota. Christian Medical College, Ludhiana had certain seats reserved for Christian students but had chosen to give admission to only those Christians who are baptized. Here SGPC not going so far had rather decided the minimum requirement of sporting unshorn hair and being sabat soorat

Gurleen Kaur and certain other students had given affidavits that they conform to the conditions laid down in the admission norms. But in the interview, Board of Examination had taken video-graphy of all the candidates. Finding these students not observing the condition of being sabat soorat the College gave admission to Gurleen Singh and others. Piqued by this, Gurleen Kaur and others came before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. 

Here the stand taken by the aggrieved students was self contradictory 

The Full Bench judgment delivered by Mr. Justice J. S. Khair, Mr. Justice Jasbir Singh and Mr. Jasbir Ajay Kumar Mittal, besides holding unambiguously that keeping of unshorn hair is essential part of Sikhism, has also pronounced on other equally important and far reaching issues. 

The court observed that The Gurdwara Acts of 1925 and 1971 are legislative enactments, which have withstood the test of time, wherein ‘keshadhari’ (a Sikh who maintains unshorn hair) has been incorporated as the fundamental precondition for being vested with the right to be included even in the electoral rolls. 

Earlier in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925 the term Sehajdhari was inserted by the Union Government to dilute and divest the control of Gurdwaras from the Sikh hands. This move was detested and vehemently opposed by the entire Sikhs world and ultimately Government of India disfranchised sehajdharis from voting rights. But for the reasons not known the clause of sehajdhari remained on the statue, only to confuse and complicate the issue. 

In 1971 when the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Act was enacted by the Parliament the terms sehajdhari was conspicuous by its absence there. Not only this the definition of Sikh, who was in turn to be a voter, made it mandatory for him to be keshadhari,  and believe and follow the teachings of the Ten Gurus (Guru Nanak Dev ji to Guru Gobind Singh ji)  and Guru Granth Sahib only and have no other religion. 

The High Court took cognizance of the Punjab and Delhi Gurdwara Acts and the definition of the Sikh given therein.

In the beginning of the case a detailed submission by the writer of this paper was virtually quoted by every lawyer appearing in the case. 

The proceedings in the case will be memorable.  The Court was magnanimous in not only allowing anyone who wanted  to speak in the matter but also allowed written submissions to the court from different people.  During the hearing of the case articulate and emotional submissions emphasising the importance of hair for a Sikh, by Mr. Deepak Sibbal representing Guru Ram Das Medical College and Mr. Anupam Gupta on behalf of UT will be remembered for time to come. At times certain participants grabbed the opportunity to address the court as if they are addressing a religious gathering. 

This historic judgment has virtually recognized the importance of Sikh Rahit Maryada as approved by the Akal Takhat and has made it clear that it is not proper to look for the code of conduct in Guru Granth Sahib, which is a canon of spirituality and for moral upliftment. The Do’s and Don’ts of the adherents are to be found in the Sikh Rahit Maryada and the expressions of the community scholars.

Handing over the judgment, running in more than 150 pages, the Hon’ble Court also upheld the right of the minority community to implement the rules laid down by it and keeping of unshorn hair being the essential part of Sikhism. It also held that the Institute was within its right to deny admission to those who failed to follow the prescribed rules. 

The Hon’ble Court also snubbed the oft repeated argument of certain religious code being not modern by saying that for an issue of religion, an action cannot be bestowed with legitimacy merely because the action is forward-looking and non-fundamentalist. 

Despite all said and done, it is a matter of regret that the National media has still not been able to come out of its pre-determined notions to appreciate the desire of the Sikh Panth to live with their saroop which is the divine gift from the Gurus. 



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