National

Bill for separate status to Sikhism

New Delhi: After the amendment of the Anand Marriage Act for separate registration of Sikh marriages, the community is now setting its eyes on amendment of the Constitution to recognise Sikhism as a full-fledged religion. At present, Article 25 of the Constitution of India describes Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism as parts of the Hindu religion. Sikhs have long been seeking amendment to this Article to grant Sikhism an independent identity under the law.  In a significant move, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on 23 August allowed Shiromani Akali Dal’s Khadoor Sahib member Rattan Singh Ajnala’s private member Bill to amend Article 25 of the Constitution to meet the community’s pressing demand. The Bill titled ‘Constitution Amendment Bill 2012’ seeks to drop Explanation II in Article 25, which, while guaranteeing a right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, defines Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism as components of the Hindu religion.

The statement of object and reasons behind Ajnala’s private member Bill wants Explanation II dropped and says, “The drafting of sub clause (b) of Clause 2 of Article 25 tends to ignore the separate and distinct identities of Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions. Rather, it shows that these religions are either part of the Hindu religion or associated with it. This has resulted in avoidable confusion across the world about the independent identity of these three religions. This Bill proposes to amend Article 25 with a view to distinctively refer to Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religions along with Hindu religion.” The Bill also refers to the recommendation to amend Article 25 along similar lines made by the National Commission on Review of the Constitution headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice MN Venkatachaliah during the NDA regime. The Bill at hand is a constitutional amendment Bill and the second major bill moved as a private bill by Sikh MPs. The Anand Karaj Amendment Act was earlier moved as a private member’s Bill in Rajya Sabha by former MP Tarlochan Singh.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2012 on page no. 7

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