June 1, 2024

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First Sikh court opens in UK to deal with family disputes: Report

British Sikh lawyers have come together to set up a new court as a dispute resolution forum for the community caught up in family and civil disputes, a UK media report said on Thursday.

According to ‘The Times’, the Sikh court was launched last weekend at a ceremony at the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn in London accompanied by religious chants.

Baldip Singh, a 33-year-old London-based barrister who is one of the court’s founders, told the newspaper that it was not a religious tribunal but aimed at assisting Sikh families in their time of need when dealing with conflict and disputes “in line with Sikh principles”.

The new court will operate remotely and in person, and will comprise around “30 magistrates and 15 judges, of whom most will be women”. The magistrates will mediate between parties to negotiate a settlement, as well as directing them to a course to help them to work on specific issues, the newspaper report says.

Created following discussions with Sikh charities, the courses would cover low-level domestic violence, anger management, gambling and substance misuse, and are available in Punjabi as well as English. If mediation is unsuccessful, a case can be brought in front of a Sikh court judge, who can give a legally binding judgment under the Arbitration Act.

Baldip Singh said that under the rules of the new court both parties in a case would have to consent to participating.

“If we think that there are really significant safeguarding issues that we cannot deal with and should not deal with they will be directed to the appropriate place. We’re not here to take over and upset the English courts,” said Sharan Bhachu, a barrister reportedly sworn in as the “lead family judge” for the new Sikh court last week.