CHANDIGARH, June 19 (PTI): The Punjab Cabinet on Monday approved an amendment to the British-era Sikh Gurdwaras Act to ensure “free-to-air” telecast of Gurbani from Amritsar’s Golden Temple.
Chief minister Bhagwant Mann said the amendment bill will be introduced in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday, the second day of its two-day session.
Currently, Gurbani is broadcast from the Sikh shrine by PTC, a private channel often linked to the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Badal family.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, has contested the move by the AAP government, saying the 1925 Act is a central legislation and can only be amended by Parliament.
However, chief minister Mann said the state government is fully competent to amend this Act as the Supreme Court had already ruled that this Act is not an inter-state Act, but a state Act, an official statement said.
The statement quoting the chief minister said the state cabinet has decided to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act by inserting Section 125A, thereby making it the responsibility of the SGPC to ensure “free-to-air” live telecast of the holy Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple).
Mann said that this amendment has been approved with the objective that the entire humanity is able to listen to and see the live telecast of Gurbani free of cost.
Meanwhile, SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami on Monday strongly condemned the AAP government’s move.
Dhami told media in Amritsar that any amendment to the Act can only be done by the Central government through Parliament as per the recommendations of the General House of the SGPC.
He alleged that Bhagwant Mann wants to “please” his party leadership in Delhi and claimed that a “political colour is being given to the religious affairs of the Sikhs”.
However, CM Mann claimed that the decision is in consonance with the feelings of the “Sikh Sangat (community)” across the globe.
The chief minister described it as the need of the hour to disseminate the “Sarb Sanji Gurbani” across the globe with the aim of spreading the universal message of “welfare of all”.
He said the move will go a long way in offering an opportunity to the “Sangat” to listen to Gurbani while sitting at home, even in foreign countries.
Mann said that the new Act will be called the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Act, 2023 and will come into force from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
The chief minister said that the Act stipulates that it will be the duty of the Board (SGPC) to propagate the teachings of the Gurus by making uninterrupted (without any advertisements/commercials/distortion) live feed (audio as well as video) of holy Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib available free of cost to all media houses, outlets, platforms, channels, etc. whoever wishes to broadcast it.
Mann said that as a humble and devotee Sikh, he is a votary of free-to-air telecast of the Gurbani across the globe.