The Supreme Court on Thursday directed rival groups Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee and Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee to maintain status quo on the management control of Gurdwaras in Haryana till further orders and directed the state government to take all steps to maintain law and order.
A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said that the shrines under the control of the groups at the time of passing of this interim order at 2:30 pm on Thursday shall continue to be with them.
"We are directing to maintain status quo to subject Gurdwaras as existing today at 02:30 PM in all respect," the bench, also comprising justices M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said.
The apex court passed the order after Haryana government submitted that the HSGMC has taken control of around 6-7 out of 52 Gurdwaras in the state, a contention refuted by SGPC which submitted that its rival has taken over just one shrine in Kurukshetra district.
The bench said that there is no reason not to believe the state government's contention and directed the Haryana government to take all necessary steps for maintaining peace.
"The DGP of the state and SP of concerned districts are directed to ensure that law and order situation is not disturbed in any manner whatsoever and take all necessary measures," the bench said, while also directing the rival factions to open new bank accounts for Gurdwaras, the management of which were in their possession and deposit gifts and offerings.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for Haryana, contended that the situation in the state is tense but under control and it has identified five flashpoints.
He assured the bench that the state is committed to prevent any untoward incident.
Before passing the order, the bench also perused the report of the Intelligence Bureau, provided by Ministry of Home Affairs through Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
The 52 Gurdwaras are classified into three schedules and the first contains eight historical shrines while the second has 17 and the rest falls in the third schedule.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Harbhajan Singh, a resident of Haryana and member of SGPC, challenging the constitutional validity of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014 under which a separate committee was formed to manage the affairs of the gurdwaras in the state.
When the matter was taken up in the morning, the bench asked the state government and representatives of SGPC and HSGMC to be present at 2 PM to know the ground situation.
The Centre and the petitioner urged the court to grant status quo but the bench said that it can pass the order only after hearing all the parties and posted the case at 2 pm.
The formation of a new committee had sparked a bitter tussle between the Amritsar-based SGPC and the new panel over control of Sikh shrines in Haryana.
The petitioner said that Section 72 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 says that the power to make law in respect of SGPC as an Inter-State Body Corporate has been reserved to the Central Government only and there is no provision in law for any bifurcation by enacting a State legislation.
He said that the hasty enactment is not only against the constitutional provisions and the statutory provisions of Punjab Reorganisation Act but is also divisive in its intention to create dissension among followers of Sikh religion.
"Under the law, Haryana cannot legislate in respect of a subject where the field is already occupied by central legislation as the subject of religious institutions correlates to Entry 28 List III. The strict provisions with regard to interstate body corporate under the law have not been complied with.
"It is important to note that mandate with regard to several actions including reservation of constituencies, constitution of Sikh Gurdwara Elections Tribunal and notification of gurdwaras for bringing them within the provisions of Section 85 of the 1925 Act have been done by the Central Government," the petition said.
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