09 May 2016 Current Affairs: President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Act, 2016, which alters provisions of a 91-year-old law that regulated administration of gurdwaras in Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
According to the amended Act, those who smoke or drink, or shave or trim their beard or hair, will not be permitted to vote in elections to Sikh religious bodies. Earlier, under the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, any Sikh aged above 21 and registered as a voter was entitled to vote in elections to the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) constituted to look after the overall administration and management of the religious shrines of the community.
On March 15 this year, Home Minister Rajnath Singh introduced the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Rajya Sabha, and it was passed by the Upper House the next day. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on April 25. The President gave his assent to it on 5 May 2016.
The Bill was introduced on long-pending demands of SGPC members and office-bearers that Sahajdari Sikhs those who shave their beard or hair be barred from voting in such elections. The new law comes ahead of Assembly elections due to be held in Punjab next year.
Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 : Under the 1925 Act, every Sikh who is above 21 years of age and is registered as a voter is entitled to vote in the SGPC elections. This Act had created an exception for Sehjdhari Sikhs who trim or shave their beard or hair, and allowed them to vote.