Controversial HC Full Bench Recuses From Sehajdhari Case


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
HC full bench recuses from Sehajdhari case

Chandigarh Three-judge bench says recusing to provide ‘clean slate’ to petitioners, respondents

To provide a “clean slate” to the petitioners and respondents, the three-member full bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court hearing the petitions challenging the voting rights of Sehajdhari Sikhs to Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee elections on Tuesday recused from hearing the case, saying their thinking has been affected by television debates.

However, the three-judge bench of Justices M M Kumar, Alok Singh and Gurdev Singh recalled its previous order of September 1, whereby the high court had rendered a bunch of petitions challenging the SGPC elections as “in fructuous”.

The case will now come up for hearing on Thursday after a fresh full bench will be constituted.

The bench recorded that the case will be heard on merits “without going into the correctness of allegations levelled in the application” moved by the Centre and said “the main issue of the case should not be lost in the sidelines”.

The Home Ministry had accused senior lawyer Harbhagwan Singh of recording a “false” statement before the bench “on behalf of the Ministry” that the Centre had decided to withdraw the notification banning Sehajdharis from casting votes in the SGPC elections.

Now the petitions will be heard afresh and will be decided, as ordered by the Supreme Court, within a month.

Meanwhile, senior advocate Ashwani Chopra, counsel for Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, said the Federation “is pained at the way a senior lawyer (Harbhagwan Singh) has been disrespected”.

Chopra said the reply filed by the Home Ministry is “against the Bar Council rules, is not honest and is totally uncalled for”. He said a senior lawyer can never be directly briefed by a client. “He has to be briefed by his assisting lawyer. Moreover, as alleged by the ministry, a senior lawyer can never sign a vakaltnama (power of attorney),” Chopra said.

A day after Harbhagwan Singh had made a statement, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had “clarified” that no such decision was taken by the Centre.

In its written response, the ministry had contended that Harbhagwan Singh was never given any vakaltnama. Recalling its September 1 order, the full bench also recorded that material was produced on record to show that Harbhagwan Singh was engaged by the Centre.