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Legal Larger Bench May Take Up Punjab Sikhs' Minority Status Case


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday indicated that it may refer to the constitution bench the question whether Sikhs in Punjab enjoy minority status in respect of setting up educational institutions and availing related benefits.

The apex court bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar said this while hearing the petitions by the Punjab government and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

The state government has challenged a Punjab and Haryana High Court order quashing its notification granting minority status to institutions run by the SGPC.

The high court's Dec 17, 2007 order talked about the definition of 'Sikh' under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 and its relation with constitutional provisions that protect the rights of minorities to set up their own educational institutions.

The high court held that there was no material to substantiate that Sikhs were non-dominant group in Punjab apprehending deprivation of their rights at the hands of 'dominant' groups that may come to power.

The high court judgment quashed various notifications issued by the Punjab government granting minority status to educational institutions run by the SGPC.

The apex court was told that the high court had wrongly applied the test of 'dominant' and 'non-dominant' group of community in a state.

When a counsel informed the court that a similar case was referred to the constitution bench, the judges asked him to give details so that the Punjab matter could also be referred to a similar bench.

A constitutional bench is a bench of five or more judges of the apex court constituted by the chief justice of India to hear and decide a case involving a substantial question of law.



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Further news on this subject

Can Sikhs, a majority in Punjab, claim ‘minority' status there?

The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it would refer for adjudication by a Constitution Bench the issue whether Sikhs, who form a majority population in Punjab, can claim ‘minority' status in that State.

A Bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar gave this indication during the course of arguments on a batch of appeals from the State of Punjab and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) against a judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which held that Sikhs were not “minorities” in Punjab and could not claim minority rights. In May 2009, the court stayed the operation of the judgment.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on December 17, 2007 struck down a notification issued by the Punjab government on April 13, 2001 permitting the SGPC to give 50 per cent reservation to Sikh students in colleges run by it on grounds that Sikhs were a minority community.

“Parameters not applied”

The High Court was of the view that the impugned notifications had not applied the relevant parameters for declaring a group of individuals to be minority. “The country could not be taken as a unit, as has been done. There is no material to substantiate that “Sikhs” are a non-dominant group in Punjab apprehending deprivation of their rights at the hands of “dominant” groups, who may come to power in the State in a democratic election. The notifications are clearly ultra vires the jurisdiction of the State government, violating right of equality and public interest.”

The State and the SGPC argued in the Supreme Court that the High Court erred by striking down the minority status of the Sikhs. They said that going by the definition of Sikhs as explained in the Sikh Gurdwaras (SG) Act, 1925, only about 53 lakh, roughly one-third of the electoral college of the SGPC, were Sikhs as against the 1.66 crore total voters in the State. They disputed the High Court's reasoning to conclude that Sikhs were a majority by virtue of a Census report that pegged their population in the State at 59.2 per cent.

The State said this figure, taken from the 2001 census, was based on a counting of all sects belonging to Udasis, Nirmala Sadhus, Sant Nirankari Mandal, Dera Sacha Sauda, Radha Soami Satsang. “They are not Sikhs within the meaning of ‘Sikh' under the SG Act, 1925, since they believe in living gurus.


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