The Punjab Cabinet led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday said the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Act of 2023 will pave the way for eliminating the undue control over the free to air telecast of the sacred Gurbani from the Golden Temple.
Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister said the Cabinet approved to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act of 1925 and to insert Section 125-A into the Act, thereby casting duty on the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to ensure free to air live telecast of the holy Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib.
He said this amendment has been made with the objective that entire humanity is able to listen to and see the live telecast of holy Gurbani free of cost.
Mann said this move is aimed at ensuring that Gurbani is not commercialised in any manner.
The Chief Minister said this Act will be called the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Act, 2023, and will come into force on and with effect from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette.
He said in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, after Section 125, Section 125-A would be inserted for the live telecast of the Gurbani free of cost.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body for Sikhs, reacted sharply to the move, asking the government not to interfere in religious matters.
Responding to the Cabinet decision, SGPC chief Harjinder Singh Dhami said: “This (Gurdwara Act) can only be amended by the Centre as the Punjab government has got no right to do so.”
Mann said the Act stipulates that it will be the duty of the board to propagate the teachings of the Gurus by making uninterrupted (without any on screen running advertisements, commercials and distortion) live feed (audio or audio as well as video) of the Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib available free of cost to all media houses, outlets, platforms, channels, etc., whoever wishes to broadcast it.
The Chief Minister said as a humble and devotee Sikh, he is a votary of free to air telecast of the Gurbani across the globe.
Mann wondered how this was an attack on ‘panth’ as he was just opposing the control of a particular channel over the telecast of the Gurbani, which is totally unwarranted and unjustified.
He said this move is not aimed at giving rights to any particular channel of government or of any single individual but it is aimed at spreading the message of the Gurbani across the globe.
The Chief Minister asserted that the state government is fully competent to amend this Act as the apex court had already, through a judgment, ruled that this act is not an interstate Act.
He said a single family had dominated in the affairs of the SGPC since long due to which an irreparable damage had been made to the Sikh panth.
Mann said that by playing a dirty game, this (Badal) family tried to encash the religious sentiments of Sikhs by giving exclusive rights of telecast of the Gurbani to their blue-eyed channel, whereas no mention of word telecast or broadcast was there in the Act.
The Chief Minister said as people wish to listen to the Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib so they had to subscribe to this channel.
However, he said the package of this channel is given along with other channels which is too expensive and can’t be afforded by the common person.
Mann said the SGPC, which was constituted by Sikh Gurdwara Act of 1925, was entrusted with the task of spreading the message of the Gurbani but it has forgotten its duty while acting as a stooge in the hands of their master family.
The Chief Minister said 11 years have passed and the SGPC elections have not taken place in the state.
He said that it is surprising that the acting President of the SGPC is removing the acting Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib just because he is not towing the line of the master family.
Mann categorically said the Act is not any attack on panth but it is just a humble effort to ensure free to air telecast of the sacred Gurbani across the globe.