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‘The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act 1971’ which followed the ‘Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1925’ was a great achievement for Sikh Community since it placed the management of the Delhi Gurdwaras into the hands of local Sikh electorate. The move initially started in November 1920 when the Sarbat Khalsa called at Sri Amritsar Sahib through Sri Akal Takhat Sahib’s Hukamnama immediately constituted the ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)’ who made an appeal to all the mahants to hand over the control of Gurdwaras and their properties to the SGPC.

The said appeal of the SGPC was followed by the mahants of Gurdwaras in Delhi in letter and spirit. In the year 1925, the ‘Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Parbandhak Committee’ (DGPC) was constituted which functioned without any formal Rules and Regulations till it was registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 in August 1938. However, in the year 1942 the DGPC was replaced by ‘Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (GPC), Delhi Province’ which was also registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 in the year 1944.

In the post-independence period, some members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the SGPC defected to Congress. Hence in the year 1951, the GPC was disbanded and a caretaker Committee consisting of eleven members was constituted to replace it. But after change of power in the year 1956, the Akali led SGPC dissolved this Committee and instead appointed an interim Committee of three members and thereafter its elections were held in which eight members were elected unopposed and seven were nominated by the SGPC. The pro-Congress faction again took over the SGPC which passed a resolution in March 1959 to dissolve the Akali-dominated GPC and to constitute an ad-hoc Committee of five members.

In March 1959 and again in May 1959, the SGPC bosses tried to forcefully capture Gurdwaras Sis Ganj Sahib and Bangla Sahib in Delhi, whereas actually it was a battle between the Akali and Congress factions of the SGPC in the arena of Delhi Gurdwaras.

In May 1960, a court injunction was issued refraining the SGPC from interfering in the DGPC affairs. Both the parties mutually agreed to appoint Bakshi Gurcharan Singh as an arbitrator to solve the dispute who made an award in April 1962 thereby nominating 19 members including himself to the new Gurdwara Committee and suggesting two more to be co-opted. Bakshi Gurcharan Singh himself became President and the Committee functioned independently under his Presidentship till 1967 when it was dislodged by a Court Order holding Bakshi award to be invalid. Scuffles took place in the arena of the Gurdwaras in Delhi again when the shrines of Sis Ganj and Bangla Sahib were occupied by armed miscreants in January 1971 and further in May 1971.

In the meanwhile, the SGPC constituted a 5 members Committee consisting of four Takhat Jathedars and a Head Granthi of Darbar Sahib, Amritsar to look after the management of Gurdwaras in Delhi. But this Committee could not function due to the High Court pronouncement in May 1971 which also suggested the remedy of legislation to protect the interests of general public who are beneficiaries of Gurdwaras.

On May 20, 1971 the President of India promulgated the ‘Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras(Management) Ordinance, 1971’ which provides for constitution of a five members Board to run the management of Sikh shrines and educational institutions, while dissolving the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Delhi registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860. On June 26, 1971 the said Ordinance was converted into the ‘Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras (Management) Act, 1971 (24 of 1971)’.

However, Act No. 24 was only an interim measure. The government has made its intention known to provide a permanent and more meaningful measure for the management of Sikh Shrines in Delhi. Hence, ‘Delhi Gurdwara Bill’ was prepared which was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 22, 1971 and two days later by the Rajya Sabha.

After receiving the assent of the President of India on December 30, 1971, the ‘Delhi Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1971 (82 of 1971) came into force w.e.f. December 31, 1971. In accordance with the provisions of this Act, the four years term 55 members Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) consists of 46 elected and 9 Co-opted members.

The Co opted members include one nominee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), Sri Amritsar, Jathedar Sahiban of four Takhat i.e. Sri Akal Takhat Sahib Sri Amritsar, Sri Kesgarh Sahib Sri Anandpur Sahib, Sri Harmandir Sahib Patna (Bihar) and Sri Hazur Sahib Nanded (Maharashtra), two members out of the Presidents of the Registered Singh Sabha Gurdwaras of Delhi to be chosen by draw of lots and two members to represent the Sikh Community of Delhi to be chosen by the newly elected 46 members respectively.

It is also pertinent that the fifth Sikh Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, Punjab has still not been included in the Delhi Gurdwara Act whereas it has already been included in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act 1925 (SGPC) long back in the year 1999. As such, the preliminary general election of members of the DSGMC under this Act were held by the government on March 20, 1975 and first Committee was constituted on April 28, 1975 accordingly. Thereafter, further Delhi Gurdwara elections were held in the year 1975, 1979, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2013, 2017 and recently on August 22, 2021.

Although several amendments have been made in the Act and rules from time to time, but two major amendments can be seen, one in March 1981 thereby removing the mandatory requirement of High School or equivalent qualification for election of President or other Office-bearers of the Committee and another in February 2002 thereby reducing the age of voters from 21 years to 18 years.

Presently, the DSGMC having annual income of about Rs. 150 Crore is managing the historical and other Gurdwaras in Delhi apart from managing various Schools, Colleges, Polytechnics, Engineering Management Colleges, Institutions, Hospitals, Dispensaries and Old Age Homes etc.

About the author:
Inder Mohan Singh

Inder Mohan Singh Inder Mohan Singh, an expert in Delhi Gurdwara elections is a member of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. While in government service with the Delhi government he was behind the conduct of Gurdwara body polls from 1977 to 2006. He takes active part in religious deliberations in the Delhi Gurdwara body.

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