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UK British Born Sikh Appointed High Court Judge In London


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
British-born Sikh appointed High Court judge in London
Shyam Bhatia in London

A British-born Sikh lawyer, who advised that British intervention in the Iraq war was unlawful, has been appointed a judge of the High Court in London.

History has been created with the appointment of Mr Justice Rabinder Singh who becomes the first Sikh and the first male from an ethnic minority ever to be elevated to the exalted position of a High Court judge.

Another Sikh, Kenya-born Sir Mota Singh, also created history when he became the first judge to wear a turban in a British court. But Sir Mota Singh retired as a Crown Court judge, one level below the High Court.

The significance of Justice Rabinder Singh’s achievement is that it is one of the country’s most influential and prestigious legal appointments. He will from now on hear some of the UK’s most serious and important legal issues and will be automatically in the running for Chief Justice as and when the position becomes vacant.

Friends and admirers of Rabinder Singh say he has an enviable human rights record. Some of the highlights of his legal career include representing the campaign of nuclear disarmament in 2002 when he argued that the UK would be in breach of international law if it used force against Iraq based on Security Council Resolution 1441.

In an opinion delivered jointly with fellow lawyer Charlotte Kilroy in November 2002, Singh argued: “We consider that it is clear that SCR 1441 does not authorise military action by a member state against Iraq. In our view there is nothing in the Preamble, which alters this view. Indeed it is notable that a late insertion into the Preamble was the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, Kuwait and the neighbouring states.”

Two years later in 2004, he successfully represented the human rights group, Liberty, in the House of Lords against the indefinite detention without trial of non-UK national suspected of terrorist activities. One year later, he successfully represented Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in the case against the UK government over the refusal of economic benefits to refugees.

Born in 1964 to Sikh immigrant parents from India, Singh grew up in Bristol and went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a double first in law in 1985. He spent the following year studying for his LLM at the University of California at Berkeley where he became interested in constitutional law, as well as issues concerned with the misuse of power.

He returned to London by 1988 to do his Bar Finals and was called to the Bar in July 1989. For the next 10 years, he specialised in administrative law, employment law, European Community law, human rights law, commercial law and media laws. One of his colleagues from the earliest days was Cherie Booth, QC, the wife of future British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Together with Cherie and five other fellow lawyers, he set up his own set of Chambers - Matrix Chambers - in 2000. Named Barrister of the Year by Lawyer magazine in 2001, he was appointed a QC in 2002.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Singh has been cited for his interest in Ancient Greece. “One thing I would have liked to be is an academic specialising in Greek poetry”, he is quoted as telling an interviewer.



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