Sikhs not a minority in Punjab, rules apex court

February 15th, 2008 - 6:42 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) Sikhs are not in minority in Punjab, the Supreme Court ruled Friday, agreeing with a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict last year. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan refused to suspend the high court verdict of December 2007 saying: “It is strange to assume that Sikhs in Punjab are in minority.”

The bench, which also included Justices C.K. Thakkar and R.V. Raveendran, however, issued notices to the Punjab government on a petition by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), questioning the high court’s ruling on a petition by Shail Mittal, a resident of Punjab.

The bench also issued notice to Mittal, who had moved the high court questioning a Punjab government notification that provided for 50 percent reservation to Sikhs in SGPC-run educational institutions on the ground that Sikhs were a minority community.

Appearing for the SGPC, senior counsel Harish Salve dubbed the high court’s ruling as “perverse” and sought its suspension. He said that the high court has wrongly denied minority status to Sikhs by counting other sects like Namdharis, Radhasowamis, Nirankaris and even Dera Saccha Sauda as Sikhs.

Including all these sects among Sikhs has resulted in swelling their numbers, leading the court to rule that Sikhs are not in minority in Punjab, Salve said.

Salve also contended people belonging to other sects happen to be followers of “living gurus”, while Sikhs follow the teachings of their 10 late Gurus and their religious book Guru Granth Sahib.

As per the SGPC Act, people belonging to other sects are not counted as Sikhs.

But the bench did not buy the argument. “On this count, even Hindus would be a minority in India as they are also divided into various sects and sub-sects,”It said.

Salve argued that the high court has wrongly reasoned that Sikhs are an influential and a politically dominant community and so cannot be dubbed as a minority in the state.

This is not a valid yardstick to determine whether a community is minority, said Salve, adding that even Parsis and Christians are very influential but they cannot be divested of their minority status on the grounds of their influence.

Salve argued that any community could be declared a minority community only on the basis of their population, and Sikhs at 5.3 million in Punjab constitute merely one third of the total population of the state.

But the bench did not stay the high court order, saying that all these issues need closer examination.

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