1947-2014 (Archived)
Judge throws out Sikh holy man libel action

Judge throws out Sikh holy man libel action - Press Gazette

Journalist and broadcaster Hardeep Singh has seen off a libel action brought by an Indian holy man who he claimed was an imposter.
His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj, who since 2002 has been head of Nirmal Kutia Johal - a religious institution which follows the teachings of the Nirmal Sikh faith - had complained about an article which appeared in The Sikh Times in August 2007.

He alleged that it meant among other things that he was the leader of a cult and an impostor, had disturbed the peace in the Sikh community of High Wycombe, and promoted blasphemy and the sexual exploitation and abuse of women.

Singh, denied libel, pleading justification, fair comment and qualified privilege.

His counsel Mark Hill QC told Mr Justice Eady in London that the trial due to start today could not proceed as any finding would necessarily require the court to enter into issues of doctrine, tradition and practice of the Sikh religion which was contrary to established legal authority.

"The key point is that the claimant's purported appointment to the post in the Sikh religion which he claims to hold is irregular."

Agreeing that the action would have to be "stayed", the judge said it did appear that issues of a religious or doctrinal nature permeated the proceedings.

"The issue of whether he is or is not fairly described as an impostor cannot be resolved without reference to Sikh doctrine."

He refused permission to appeal although an application can be renewed before the Court of Appeal.

Hardeep Singh said: “I am delighted and relieved with Mr Justice Eady’s ruling which brings an end to a bitter three year struggle by myself and my family to defend my right to free speech in Britain.”

He added: “This exhausting battle to clear my name has cost me in excess of £90,000 and yet it took Justice Eady only three hours to throw out the case.

“It seems Jeet Singh hoped I would be forced to back out of the case as the costs mounted which begs the question should freedom of speech in this country only be available to the rich who have means to defend themselves in court?

“Ultimately, our libel laws need urgent reform, not only to protect British journalists but also to prevent our laws being abused by foreign nationals.”


1947-2014 (Archived)
Libel Court ‘Is Not The Right Place For Faith Disputes’

Libel Court ‘Is Not The Right Place For Faith Disputes’ Derren Brown Blog

“One of Britain’s most senior judges said yesterday that libel courts must not become places where religious and doctrinal differences are hammered out.

Mr Justice Eady made his comments while summing up his reasons for suspending a defamation case brought by an Indian ‘holy man’ against a British journalist.

The dispute centred around an article published by Hardeep Singh in the Sikh Times in August 2007 entitled: ‘Cult divides Sikh congregation in High Wycombe’. Mr Singh, a freelance journalist and a practicing Sikh, was investigating the links between a North Indian religious organisation and three gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Britain.

At the time the article was published, followers of the Nirmala Kutia Johal, a Sikh sect based in the Punjab, were divided over the accession of Sant Baba Jeet Singh, who had become their leader in 2002 following the death of the group’s previous guru.

Mr Singh’s article described Nirmala Kutia Johal as a ‘cult’ and said that disagreements over the accession of the group’s new guru had spilled out into the open among supporters in High Wycombe. Baba Jeet Singh, an Indian national who has never travelled to the UK, issued libel proceedings in the British courts against both Mr Singh and the Sikh Times, which later went bust.

Baba Jeet Singh claimed that Hardeep Singh’s article defamed his character by describing him as a leader of a cult and an impostor who had disturbed the peace in the Sikh community of High Wycombe, and had promoted blasphemy and the sexual exploitation and abuse of women.”


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