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Sikh Personal Law : A Pragmatic View
All communities in India have their exclusive personal laws for guiding them in their community life as well as to keep their distinct entity.
Hindus are governed by their Traditional Personal Laws :
Hindu Code Acts 1955-56 like Hindu Marriage Act (1955)
Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956
Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956
Hindu Remarriage Act 1956
Muslim Laws based on Holy Quran are :
Hadith or Tradition of Prophet Mohammed
Muslim Personal Law Sharjat Application Act 1937
Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939
Muslim Women (Protection of Right on Divorce) Act 1986
Indian Christian Marriage Act 1972
Indian Divorce Act 1869
Only about one lac population, have Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act 1936
About two crore population. No separate Personal Law. They are subjected to Hindu Code Act 1955-56. Indian Constitution confers power to the State to impose Personal Laws for social welfare. Hindus Personal Laws are applicable to Sikhs by construing them as Hindus.
Necessity of Sikh Personal Law
Sikhs are a separate, distinct community and are not Hindus, though originated from Hindus, as Christian are not Jews, though originated from Jews.
Sikhs are monotheistic, guided by Guru Granth Sahib as living Guru on all aspects of life from birth to death. Sikhs are guided by Guru Maryada, Rahit Maryada and Gurumatta.
Source of Sikh Laws
Guru Granth Sahib is the principal source. It accords sanctity and sanction to all Sikh institutions. Other sources are the Gurus’ teachings as documented in Guru Maryada or Sikh Code of Conduct. Sikhs are monotheistic and casteless, whereas Hindus are polytheistic and caste-conscious, guided by Vedas, Smritis or Commentaries, Manu and others, framed thousands of years back.
No need of discussing the differences, you all know it quite well. Ham Hindu Nahin by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, a well-known Sikh scholar, contains convincing material on this subject.
Why did not intellectual giants like Bhai Vir Singh, Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha and similar Gursikhs solve this vital issue during the British Rule ? It might sound redundant, but its necessity is definite, let us accord it the priority it deserves.
I venture to use this forum and appeal to :
In the present milieu of questioning the very basics of Sikhism, the latest generation wants answers. Who could be more qualified than the intellectuals to quench the thirst of a searching mind ? I feel, so far intellectuals have shied away and not contributed enough to the cause of Sikhism, both its precept and practice. Similarly, such enactments of Sikh Personal Laws have been inordinately delayed. We have lost opportunities, but not the path. Galaxy of intellectuals present today convinces me that you have come with devotion and determination to retrieve the lost chances. You are the think-tank of the Panth. Like competent commanders carry out detailed planning. We, the soldiers at the grass-roots, will not let you down.
Besides the usual discussion in gurdwaras, our religious leaders will need to update their knowledge not only of Sikhism, but of other religions, as well as their Personal Laws. Then alone can the Sikh world, Sikh jagat be convinced about the necessity as well as urgency of such separate Sikh Personal Law. Sikhism is the latest and most modern religion, a democratic and socialistic religion with equal status for women, a casteless community, with compassion for the weak, with a sword for protection of the oppressed.
No laws can be enacted unless the Sikh politicians are themselves well-read, committed and enjoy the goodwill of other communities also.
Such personal law does not infringe on any other community’s personal law, does not dim the glory of any other religion. It in fact confirms the identity of an existing religion and is a step towards fulfilment of bonafide and genuine aspirations of Sikhs.
If this brain-storming kindles that flame of thought process amongst us, it fulfils its purpose.
The minor details of Sikh Personal Law as applicable to marriage, divorce, inheritance, Sikh institutions, initiation (amrit) and other such vital matters, as distinct from Hindu Personal Law, can be worked out by the legal luminaries, intellectuals and committed politicians amongst you.