Lok Sabha passed the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The Lok Sabha has passed the Sikh Gurdwara (Amendment) Bill, 2016. With this, the Bill — already having been passed by Rajya Sabha — has been approved by Parliament and now awaits the President’s sanction.

Here are 8 key facts on the bill:

  • The amendment brings the inclusion of Sahjdhari Sikhs to vote in the elections to the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC)
  • Sahjdhari Sikhs are the people from the Sikh religion who cut/trim their beard or hair
  • Sahjdhari Sikhs were not allowed to vote in the SGPC since 1944
  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) notification dated October 2003 carried out the proposed amendment
  • Section 72 of the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966, was exercised by the parliament in order to issue the notification
  • The amendment bill was first passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2016 and later, in the Lok Sabha in April 2016
  • The new amendment bill will come into force retrospectively from October 8, 2003
  • Under the Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925, every Sikh above 21 years of age, who is a registered voter is entitled to vote in the SGPC election.

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which were challenged by the Sehajdhari Federation after the Sehajdharis’ right to vote in the gurdwara elections was withdrawn by the Centre, reportedly on the advice of the ruling SAD.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.

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