Punjab Assembly passes Bill to ensure free telecast of Gurbani from Golden Temple
The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday passed the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2023 to ensure free telecast of Gurbani (sacred hymns from Guru Granth Sahib) from the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The Punjab Cabinet had on Monday approved an amendment to the British-era Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, to ensure free-to-air telecast of Gurbani from Amritsar’s Golden Temple. At present, Gurbani is broadcast from the holy shrine by PTC, a private channel often linked to the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Badal clan. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of the Sikhs, had contested the move by the AAP-led Punjab government, saying the 1925 Act is a central legislation and can only be amended by Parliament.
However, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday said the state government was fully competent to amend this Act. He reasoned that the Supreme Court had on the issue of a separate gurdwara committee for Haryana ruled that this Act was not an inter-state Act, but a state Act.
‘No channel should have exclusive rights’
Speaking during the debate on the Bill, Mann said no channel should have exclusive rights to broadcast Gurbani. He said former Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh had last year directed the SGPC to have its own channel, but it was not launched. “One channel has the exclusive right to broadcast Gurbani,” Mann said in an apparent reference to the PTC channel. He argued that many people who watch this channel abroad have to pay a hefty amount for its subscription.
The chief minister described it as the need of the hour to disseminate the “Sarb Sanjhi Gurbani” across the globe with the aim of spreading the universal message of “welfare of all”. The Bill will break the domination of Badal-owned PTC channel and the move is in line with the chief minister’s earlier stand questioning the monopoly of one channel over the telecast of the Gurbani. In May this year, the AAP government had even offered to bear all the expenditure to install high-end techniques so that Gurbani can be telecast on all channels, free of cost.
‘SGPC’s duty to propagate Guru’s teachings’
According to the provisions of the Bill, “In the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, after Section 125, Section 125-A shall be inserted.” The Bill further reads, “It shall be the duty of the Board (SGPC) to propagate the teachings of the Gurus by making uninterrupted (without any on screen running advertisements or commercials or distortion) live feed (audio or audio as well as video) of holy Gurbani from Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) available free of cost to all media houses, outlets, platforms, channels, etc, whoever wishes to broadcast anywhere all over the world.”
“Anyone broadcasting holy Gurbani from Harmandir Sahib shall not run any advertisement at least 30 minutes prior to start of broadcast of Gurbani and 30 minutes after the broadcast of Gurbani is over,” the Bill stated. “Therefore, it is imperative that Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee should make Gurbani available free of cost to entire humanity and to ensure that the spread of Gurbani is not commercialised in any manner,” it said.
SAD, SGPC resent AAP govt move
Speaking on the issue, SAD MLA Manpreet Ayali said, “One channel shouldn’t have the exclusive rights over the live Gurbani telecast. The SGPC should run its own channel.” He, however, opposed the Bill, saying that the state government should not interfere in the SGPC affairs. He appealed to the government to reconsider its decision of tabling the Bill in the House. He said, “It will set a wrong precedent and in the coming days governments would start interfering in the SGPC matters.”
Meanwhile, speaking to ANI, SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami said the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, is a central Act and the state government had no jurisdiction to make amendments to it. He said that the amendment could only be brought in by the Centre in the Lok Sabha after consulting the SGPC, which is an elected body of the Sikhs. “Punjab government can’t interfere in any manner. They don’t have the right…They are trying to politicise this and I strongly condemn this. I urge Bhagwant Mann to not do anything like this,” he told ANI.
(With agency inputs)