Self Proclaimed Holy Man Claims Libel

Indian man claims libel against British journalist

19th August

Nutter or Holy Man?...

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Court of Appeal to hear case about conflicting claims about holiness of holy man

A self proclaimed holy man who tried to sue The Sikh Times and its journalist which said he was an impostor is to renew his appeal application after a decision to strike out his claim.

Justice Eady struck out his Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj's libel claim in May and refused permission to appeal the decision.

However, an application to renew the appeal before the Court of Appeal remained open.

He had attempted to sue journalist Hardeep Singh and Eastern Media Group over an article which appeared in The Sikh Times in August 2007.

The libel claim suggested that the article alleged he was the leader of a cult and an impostor who had disturbed the peace in the Sikh community of High Wycombe and promoted blasphemy and the sexual exploitation and abuse of women.

Justice Eady struck the case out on 17th May 2010 accepting submissions on behalf of Singh that the courts could not deal with the case because of the well established principle of English law that the court will not attempt to rule on doctrinal issues or intervene in the regulation of governance of religious groups.

The judge said it would appear that issues of a religious or doctrinal nature permeated the pleadings in the case.

Nick Collins, head of litigation at Leeds-based law firm Ford and Warren, which is representing the claimant, said the application was being renewed, and would be dealt with at an oral hearing at the Court of Appeal in October.


25th October

Update: Will Libel Lawyers be Allowed on Judgement Day?...

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'Holy man' granted right to appeal to resume libel action against journalist

At the High Court in London, Lady Justice Smith granted Indian national [who's never visited Britain] 'His Holiness [self proclaimed]' Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj the right to appeal in his libel case against British journalist Hardeep Singh. The case will now go before three judges at the Court of Appeal to decide whether it should proceed to a full trial.

Hardeep Singh said: I've been fighting this case for three years already; this adds a minimum of another six months of torment. If I lose, it will cost me over £1 million, let alone my costs so far and a tenth of my life. This feels like the biggest game of poker you can possibly play: all for exercising my right to free expression.

He added: I'm hoping the government take reform of our libel laws seriously and we get a robust bill in the New Year.

Mike Harris from Index on Censorship said: When individuals like Hardeep Singh risk £1m and bankruptcy all for a single newspaper article, it really hits home how important libel reform is. I hope the government backs the Libel Reform campaign's call for wholesale reform of our libel laws so free speech is protected.

Síle Lane from Sense About Science said: Change in the libel laws cannot come soon enough. Singh's case highlights that the laws as they stand are unfair, unduly costly, out of date and against the public interest. Until we have a clear, strong public interest defence against libel actions writers, bloggers, NGOs and journalists will be forced to back down in the face of threats.

The case centres on an article that Hardeep Singh wrote in August 2007 for the Sikh Times, a British newspaper, in which he claimed that Jeet Singh was an accused Cult leader whose teachings were not in line with mainstream Sikh doctrine.

In May 2010 Mr Justice Eady threw the case out with no right to appeal. Eady's judgment held that secular courts should not make a judgment on a religious dispute.

The application for appeal was granted on the limited basis that there are arguable issues in Singh's article that do not tread on the forbidden area of doctrinal dispute.


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