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Vedanti Refuses to Appear in Court

Courtesy: Jagpal Singh Tiwana

The Tribune, Dec. 17, 2005

Photo: Joginder Singh Vedanti

The Spokesman (Punjabi daily) case today took a serious turn when Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, jathedar [head-priest], Akal Takht, announced that he would neither receive summons nor appear in any court.

This development may cause an unsavoury situation in the coming days even as the declaration of the jathedar would be considered an open challenge to the judiciary.

Talking to The Tribune here, Jathedar Vedanti claimed that no court of the land had the jurisdiction to take any decision on the hukamnama (edict) pronounced by the Sikh clergy. He claimed that Mr. Joginder Singh [Sawhney], editor, The Spokesman, was excommunicated as per age-old tradition and conventions and the Sikh panth [community] had been accepting the maryada (Sikh code of conduct) in letter and spirit.

Jathedar Vedanti, however, said he did not challenge the jurisdiction of the court with regard to routine civil and criminal cases and held the judiciary in high esteem. However, no jathedar of the Akal Takht had ever accepted any summons issued from the duniavi adalats (worldly courts) so far as religious matters were concerned.

It may be mentioned here that Judicial Magistrate, Chandigarh, Ms. Kiran Bala, had issued a notice for March 7 to Jathedar Vedanti, S.G.P.C. chief Avtar Singh [Makkar] and media adviser of Shiromani Committee, Harbir Singh Bhanwar, on a contempt petition filed by Mr. Joginder Singh, editor of a newly launched Punjabi daily, The Spokesman.

Mr. Joginder Singh had moved an application that the S.G.P.C. president and jathedar of the Akal Takht had violated the court direction to maintain status quo by appealing to the Sikh community not to have any ties either with Mr. Singh or his daily, which was launched from S.A.S. Nagar on December 1. The editor had earlier filed a suit for declaring the edict excommunicating him as void and illegal in the court of the judicial magistrate. The court had disposed of the application for interim injunction, directing both parties to maintain status quo.

Jathedar Vedanti claimed that the then jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Gurdial Singh Ajnoha, too, had refused to accept the summons issued by a court on the basis of a writ petition filed by the late Jathedar Santokh Singh Delhi.

Similarly, Bhai Ranjit Singh had also refused to appear in court regarding a pending case in New Delhi when he was jathedar of the Akal Takht.

Mr G.S. Lamba, a senior advocate and editor of the monthly Sant Sipahi, advised jathedar of the Akal Takht to ignore the court summons. Mr. Bhanwar also claimed that jathedar of the Akal Takht was not bound to receive the summons issued by a court.

Jathedar Vedanti said the Sikh clergy might seek report from Capt. Kanwaljit Singh and Mr. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, both former Akali ministers, as to why they had violated the edict by having links with Mr. Joginder Singh, editor, The Spokesman.