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Supreme Court: Udasi Dera Is Not a Gurdwara
P.T.I., New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2002
Photo: An Udasi contingent at the Kumbh Mela, 1998
Settling a 25 year-old litigation between the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.) and a mahant on declaring of a Udasi dera as a gurdwara, the Supreme Court has ruled that mere worshipping of Guru Granth Sahib at a dera would not qualify it to be a Sikh gurdwara.
Essential ingredients for an institution to be treated as a Sikh gurdwara were that 'there should be established Guru Granth Sahib and the worship of the same by a congregation and Nishan Sahib' a bench comprising Justice Shivaraj V. Patil and Justice Arijit Pasayat said in a recent judgement.
'There may be other rooms of the institution made for other purposes, but the crucial test is the existence of Guru Granth Sahib and worshippers thereof by the congregation and Nishan Sahib,' the bench said.
One Bakhtawar Singh and 59 other worshippers had filed a petition under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act before the appropriate secretary of the government of Punjab that an institution in Kot Fatta in Bhatinda be declared a gurdwara. It was published in the Punjab Government Gazette on November 4, 1974.
However, Mahant Sarna Ram, an Udasi, filed a petition claiming that there was no Sikh gurdwara in existence and that the alleged institution was his residential house. Ramji Dass and others also filed an identical petition claiming the institution to be the residential house of Sarna Ram Chela Chet Ram.
The government referred the matter to a tribunal, which on July 31, 1978, held that the building in question was a gurdwara and the land in question belonged to the gurdwara.
Mahant Sarna Ram filed an appeal before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The High Court held that there was no escape from the conclusions that the property was the private property of Mahant Sarna Ram. The S.G.P.C. appealed against the High Court order before the Supreme Court.
Justice Pasayat said: 'Udasis form an independent sect. They do venerate Sikh scriptures. Therefore, in an institution of the Udasi sect, one can visualise reading of Guru Granth Sahib or veneration of Sikh scriptures. That itself is not decisive of the character of the institution.