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Shiromani Akali Dal can use Bucket symbol for upcoming Gurdwara polls: Delhi HC

Malhotra submitted that after the stay granted by this Court in respect of the communication dated 16.03.2021 issued by the Minister (Gurdwara Elections), it was accepted by the authorities that they would act objectively and by maintaining neutrality

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The Delhi High Court has allowed the Shiromani Akali Dal to use the bucket symbol for the upcoming elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, which is scheduled to be held on April 25. 

A divisional bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli has stayed the operation of the notification dated 30.03.2021 – whereby the respondent (The Office of Minister of Gurdwara Elections and The Govt. of NCT Delhi) notified the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 2021 to the extent the symbol “BUCKET” has been frozen due to pending litigation.

The petition was preferred by Shiromani Akali Dal to assail the communication dated 16.03.2021 issued by the Minister (Gurdwara Elections) whereby The Minister (Gurdwara Elections) had directed that the recognition of religious parties for conduct of elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee should strictly be considered in terms of Rule 14 of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (Election of Members) Rules, 1974 which was amended in 2010.

This communication recognizes the fact that despite the amendment to Rule 14 being brought into force in 2010, the said amendment was not implemented and it had been overlooked in respect of elections held in 2012 and 2017.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has also laid a challenge to the said amended Rule 14. In the alternative, Shiromani Akali Dal also prayed for reading down the amended Rule 14 by declaring that the said amendment does not create any bar against the individuals to form their own Group/ Association for seeking the reserve symbols in the name of their Group/ Association for the elections of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee without being registered and recognized as a “Religious Party”.

The writ petition was taken up for hearing on 26.03.2021. The submission of Harish Malhotra, learned senior counsel for Shiromani Akali Dal, is that the purpose of the order passed by this Court on 26.03.2021 was that the direction issued by the Minister (Gurdwara Elections) should not influence the mind of the statutory authorities under the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Act who are entrusted with the conduct of elections to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, which authorities are otherwise required to act independently in accordance with law.

Malhotra submits that even though the amended Rule 14 was made in 2010, admittedly, the same has not been enforced in practice, which is clear from the fact that even in 2012 and 2017, Shiromani Akali Dal was recognized as a religious party for the purpose of the elections to the said Committee, and was allotted the symbol of “BUCKET”.

It was the submission of Shiromani Akali Dal that, all of a sudden on 16.03.2021, and contrary to the stand taken by Office of the Minister of Gurdwara Elections themselves in their written submissions and counter-affidavit filed before Delhi High Court in pending litigations, the Office of the Minister of Gurdwara Elections have taken a somersault and are seeking to enforce the amended Rule 14 even in respect of the already recognized and ruling party in the said Committee.

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Malhotra submitted that after the stay granted by this Court in respect of the communication dated 16.03.2021 issued by the Minister (Gurdwara Elections), it was accepted by the authorities that they would act objectively and by maintaining neutrality, and would follow the past precedents of granting recognition to Shiromani Akali Dal as a religious party and allotting the “BUCKET” symbol, as in the past.

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