R Sedhuraman, Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, September 14. The Sehajdhari Sikhs, who were trying to get back their right to vote before the September 18 SGPC poll, suffered another setback today. The Supreme Court could not take up their plea with the withdrawal of Justice S S Nijjar from the case.
The Sehajdhari Sikh Federation’s petition was listed for hearing today by a Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and Nijjar. The federation has challenged the September 6 verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, suspending the HC’s September 1 order that had effectively granted the Sehjdharis the right to vote in the SGPC election.
Shortly after the petition came up for hearing, Justice Nijjar said he would not like to be part of the Bench hearing the case. Apparently, he recused himself from the case as he is a Sehajdhari Sikh. Upon this, an order was passed suggesting that the case be allotted to another Bench at the same time granting liberty to the federation to plead for an urgent hearing of the case.
In its special leave petition, the federation said the Full Bench of the HC could not have suspended the operation of the September 1 order merely on an application filed by the Central Government seeking its recall and without examining the “effect of suspension.”
The Sehjdhari Sikhs also questioned the legal sustainability of the HC order which had denied them their “statutory right” to vote.
The HC had passed the September 1 order on being informed by the Centre’s senior counsel Harbhagwan Singh that the government was withdrawing its October 8, 2003, notification that had taken away the voting rights of Sehjdhari Sikhs. Simultaneously, the HC had disposed of the three petitions filed in 2003 challenging the notification.
However, the Centre filed an application later, contending it had not authorised Harbhagwan to make such a statement in the court. Thus, the Centre sought the recall of the High Court order.