CHANDIGARH – Recently on Dec 26, 2022 a Gazette Notification has been issued by Haryana Government signed by T.V.S.N. Prasad, Additional Chief Secretary of the State’s Home Department which mentions that in exercise of the powers conferred under sub-section (1) of Section 13 of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014, the Governor of Haryana appoints Justice HS Bhalla (Retd) as Commissioner, Gurudwara Elections. The terms and conditions of his appointment shall be issued later on. Justice Bhalla is a former Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court who also remained as Judge in High Court of Orissa. He superannuated in Nov, 2011.
An Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Hemant Kumar asserts that Section 13 (1) of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara (Management) Act, 2014 stipulates that the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint a suitable person to be the Commissioner Gurudwara Elections in whom shall vest the powers of superintendence, direction, control and preparation of electoral rolls for and conduct of elections of members of the Committee i.e. Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee established under Section 3 of the aforementioned 2014 Act. Further, Section 13 (3) states that a person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections unless he is a Citizen of India and possesses judicial, administrative or executive experience as a senior officer for a period of not less than ten years.
Hence, not even a retired High Court but even a retired IAS or HCS or any senior Administrative Officer with sufficient experience can be appointed as Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections.
Meanwhile, Hemant says that a year and a half ago on 28 May, 2021, the Haryana Government via a Gazette Notification signed by the then State’s Chief Secretary, Vijay Vardhan, appointed Justice HS Bhalla (Retired) as Chairperson of Second Haryana State Law Commission. The ibid Law Commission was constituted vide a Notification issued by Administrative Reforms Department of State Government wherein it is mentioned that the Chairperson shall be a person who has been a Chief Justice or Judge of a High Court. Further, the tenure of the State Law Commission shall be three years and the State Government may extend the tenure of the Commission from time to time.
Hemant opines that although there seems to be no legal embargo or impediment if Justice Bhalla (Retd) being Chairperson of Haryana State Law Commission is also appointed as Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections by the State Government more particularly as there is no conflict of interest between these two posts, the one being statutory and the other being non-statutory. However, the convention/practice prevalent is that usually any person especially a retired HC or SC Judge is not appointed simultaneously on two different posts neither by the Central or any State Government.
Interestingly, there is no mention in the Dec 26, 2022 Notification issued by Home Department of Haryana Government regarding Justice HS Bhalla (Retd) being Chairperson of Second Haryana State Law Commission as on date.