New Delhi: The Union government has not withdrawn a 2003 notification preventing Sehajdhari or non-baptised Sikhs from participating in the elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the polls would take place as scheduled, Home Minister P Chidambaram on Friday said.

He told the Rajya Sabha he has been in touch with the Punjab government and schedule for the SGPC polls was drawn up in close consultation with the Chief Minister and the minister concerned.

"The elections will take place as per schedule," he said, responding to protests by BJP and SAD members in the wake of senior advocate Harbhagwan Singh stating in the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the Centre has decided to withdraw the notification.

The Home Minister also made the statement in the Lok Sabha. He said, "Neither the Ministry of Law nor the Ministry of Home Affairs had given a vakalatnama to Harbhagwan Singh. No one from the government had briefed him. In particular, he had no authority to make the statement that the notification dated October 8, 2003 would be withdrawn."

Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley asked if the government intends to proceed against Singh as his statement had created tension in the state and given an impression that Centre was interfering in religious affairs.

Chidambaram said he will seek an explanation from the advocate as did not wish to attach any malafide intentions at this stage. "Having regard to the seniority of the lawyer, let us hear him first," he said.

Chidambaram said his Ministry had received a report yesterday evening that Singh appeared in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in the cases relating to the elections to the SGPC.

Issue of dispute

On October 8, 2003, the Union Government had made amendments in the Sikh Gurudwara Act 1925. By issuing a notification, the Centre had restricted the Sehajdhari Sikhs from voting in the SPGC polls. The Centre took the step in wake of the SGPC recommendation. Against which the Sehajdhari Sikhs Federation knocked the doors of High Court in 2004. However, the High Court observations were set aside and the SGPC polls were conducted. This time, the Federation had moved a petition in the High Court seeking a ban on the elections.

JPN/ Bureau/ Agencies