Gurbani Row: Punjab Assembly Passes Sikh Gurudwaras Amendment Bill

The Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann alleged that the Badal family's ownership of the telecast of Gurbani led to damage to the Sikhs and claimed amendment to the Sikh Gurudwaras Act, 1925 will repair it.

Bhagwant Mann

Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to ensure free telecast of Gurbani from Golden Temple passed in Punjab Assembly which they introduced today itself. Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab held a cabinet meeting on Monday to discuss amending the Sikh Gurudwaras Act, 1925 and the cabinet reportedly has cleared the proposal. The proposal ensures a 'free to air and free of cost' broadcast of the live transmission of Gurbani from the Golden Temple.

Shiromani Akali Dal's first family, Sukhbir Singh Badal holds the rights to PTC channel that telecasts Gurbani live from Darbar Sahib in the morning and in the evening. The agreement between the PTC channel and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex body of the Sikhs is nearing an expiration soon. 

Putting an end to the 'commercialisation' of Gurbani is the Punjab Chief Minister's agenda as he claims while speaking to the media after their cabinet meeting. He also said that the absolute control over the telecast of the sacred chant and the vested interests will also be taken care of. Mann reportedly said that Section 125-A will be inserted in the Sikh Gurudwaras Act, 1925 which would make the SCGPC duty-bound to let the Gurbani be telecasted for free. 

Bhagwant Mann's decision has brought in a lot of criticism claiming that his cabinet does not have the ability to make a change in the Act but Mann defended the claims saying that the Supreme Court in 2014 had given a ruling which makes the Act not an interstate legislation as he read excerpts from a separate case from years back.

Mann reportedly told the media, "The family that controls the SGPC launched a TV channel and the rights of broadcasting Gurbani were bought in 2012 for a period of 11 years. They wanted to cash in on religious sentiments associated with Gurbani and the viewers had no option but to subscribe to their channel," alleging that to date it has been the monopoly of a single family on the rights over Gurbani which resulted in 'irreparable damage' to the Sikhs. 

Mann also added, "The (proposed change in) Act is not any attack on the panth, but it is just a humble effort to ensure free-to-air telecast of sacred Gurbani across the globe." He also argued to the criticism saying that the words 'broadcast' and 'telecast' is nowhere mentioned in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925.

Further, the CM said, "When we asked why Gurbani is not free-to-air and free of cost, SGPC said tenders will be floated. The agreement with the Badals is ending in July 2023 and we consulted top lawyers so that the existing deal is not repeated for another decade. Just the way gurdwaras were freed from 'masands (vested interests), we want to free Gurbani from these 'modern masands'." 

Bhagwant Mann claims that the SGPC instead of committing to the responsibility of spreading the message of Gurbani allegedly acted as a 'stooge' to the Badal family.