On July 21, 2014, the Supreme Court of British Columbia delivered judgment against Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha (Vancouver), and its president Bill Basra.
The ruling was the end result of an action brought against the Society by three of its members, Micheal Ghirra, Tej Pal Ganger, and Harjit Sohpaul.
The action was brought in response to the conduct of the Society president at the January 19, 2014 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Society. At the EGM, the Society’s executive, led by Bill Basra, attempted to pass resolutions that would have extended their own term in office for an additional two years.
Mr. Justice Grauer struck down the resolutions, rendering them “null and void.” Mr. Justice Grauer found that the Society had breached the their own bylaws, thereby allowing the Supreme Court to interfere with the Society’s affairs.
Bill Basra and his executive team are attempting to sell the Society’s premises and build a new Gurdwara at a different location. The sale has been wrought with controversy and has become highly polarizing among the Society’s members.
The issue arose when Ghirra made a motion, under the Society’s bylaws, to have the EGM vote held by way of a secret ballot. The petitioners alleged that the Chair, Bill Basra, failed to follow the Society’s Bylaws by not allowing the motion to be heard. The Supreme Court agreed with the petitioners.
“We did not want to go to court,”said Ghirra. “Before the [EGM] we had sent a letter to Bill Basra asking him to make sure that he runs the meeting impartially. Most importantly, we requested that the voting at the EGM be done by way of a secret ballot.”
“The judgement was clear – the society’s bylaws are important and must be abided by. No one is above the law,” said Tej Pal Ganger, who closely followed the proceedings. “Executives must remember that their actions are governed by law and they cannot act unilaterally.”
Harjit Sohpaul, a former Society president and petitioner in the proceedings stated, “for us, this action was about justice and the ability of members to decide the society’s direction. The executive cannot act without the wishes of its members.”
Following the defeat, the Society president Bill Basra had not yet decided on how he will proceed.