Khaira and Others v Shergill and Others: CA 17 Jul 2012

The parties disputed the trusteeship and governance of two Gurdwaras (Sikh temples). The defendants now applied for the claim to be struck out on the basis that the differences were as to Sikh doctrines and practice and as such were unjusticiable.
Held: The appeal was allowed. There were no ‘judicial or manageable standards’ by which the issues could be judged, because they turned on the question ‘who is ‘the successor’ of the original founder of the temple trusts’, which was an issue which ‘depends on the religious beliefs and practices of Sikhs generally and the Nirmal Kutia Sikh institution in particular’, and which ‘is not justiciable by the English courts’
The issues were non-justiciable: ‘non-justiciability is a salutary principle of judicial self-restraint. It ensures that judges do not overreach themselves and that they abstain from deciding questions that are neither appropriate for, nor capable of decision by, judicial method. Judges are not capable of understanding and deciding everything and it is not their function to do so. Judges are not omniscient. The courts they sit in are courts of law. There are matters on which a court is not competent to speak with authority, because of the limitations inherent in the nature of the judicial process, and therefore should not speak. That is so where the questions are not matters of law at all, such as subjective inward matters incapable of proof by direct evidence or by inference . . The deeds are silent on the criteria to be applied by another person who is asked to decide the question. It is not just a legal exercise in the construction of English trust deeds. It will be necessary to investigate the doctrines and practices of Sikhism in order to determine the criteria relevant to the claim of the 9th claimant to be successor of the First Holy Saint. In my view, the question of succession is essentially a matter of professed subjective belief and faith on which secular municipal courts cannot possibly reach a decision, either as a matter of law or fact.’


Mummery, Hooper, Pitchford LJJ


[2012] EWCA Civ 983, [2012] WLR(D) 214, [2012] PTSR 1697




Charities Act 1993 33


England and Wales


CitedGeneral Assembly of Free Church of Scotland v Overtoun HL 1904
Craigdallie stated settled law: ‘My Lords, I disclaim altogether any right in this or any other civil court of this realm to discuss the truth or reasonableness of any of the doctrines of this or any other religious association, or to say whether . .
CitedButtes Gas and Oil Co v Hammer (No 3) HL 1981
In a defamation action, issues arose as to two conflicting oil concessions which neighbouring states in the Arabian Gulf had granted over their territorial and offshore waters. The foreign relations of the United Kingdom and Iran were also involved . .
CitedRegina v Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Ex parte Wachmann 1992
A local rabbi sought judicial review of the declaration of the Chief Rabbi, following an investigation into allegations of adultery with members of his congregation, that he was religiously and morally unfit to occupy his position.
Held: Simon . .
CitedRegina v The Imam of Bury Park Mosque, Luton and others ex parte Sualiman Ali CA 12-May-1993
The court had been asked to intervene in an internal dispute as to the role of an Imam in a mosque community.
Held: The request was denied. The case was not one of public law: ‘ the particular function which the Imam was performing affected . .
CitedRegina v Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral and Church In Wales ex parte Williamson Admn 22-Aug-1997
The claimant, subject to a vexatious litigant order under the 1981 Act, sought leave to bring judicial review proceedings of a decision by the respondents to appoint a woman to the position of Minor Canon in the cathedral.
Held: Permission was . .
CitedVarsani and others v Jesani, Patel and Her Majesty’s Attorney-General CA 3-Apr-1998
A Hindu religious sect, constituted as a charity, had split into two factions.
Held: The court had jurisdiction to order that the assets of the sect should be divided under the powers in the Act, and held upon separate trusts for the two . .
CitedRegina v Provincial Court of Church In Wales ex parte Reverend Williams Admn 23-Oct-1998
No judicial review was available of the decision of a court of the disestablished Church in Wales removing a minister for misconduct. . .
CitedBlake v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 31-Jul-2003
The claimant, a former Anglican priest, sued in defamation. The defendant argued that the claim was non-justiciable since it would require the court to adjudicate on matters of faith and religious doctrine.
Held: The claim could not be heard. . .
CitedHH Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj v Eastern Media Group and Another QBD 17-May-2010
The claimant, a Sikh religious leader complained of defamation in a Sikh journal in England. The defendant said the claim was non-justiciable since it required the court to pronouce on a matter of religious doctrine.
Held: The plea of . .
CitedShergill v Purewal and Another QBD 15-Dec-2010
The court was asked to rule that the action in defamation was non-justiciable depending for its outcome on matters of intepretation of the Sikh faith.
Held: the action was stayed. . .
CitedShergill v Purewal and Another CA 22-Jun-2011
The claimant’s defamation action had been stayed as unjusticiable. The second defendant now appealed against an order for costs against it.
Held: The appeal against the costs order was allowed. . .
CitedAttorney-General v Pearson 1817
No Alteration to Charty’s Objects
A protestant dissenters’ meeting house in Wolverhampton which was declared by a trust deed to be held for ‘the worship and service of God’ was the subject of a dispute between the schismatic congregation. The issue was the nature of the worship . .
CitedPercy v Church of Scotland Board of National Mission HL 15-Dec-2005
The claimant appealed after her claim for sex discrimination had failed. She had been dismissed from her position an associate minister of the church. The court had found that it had no jurisdiction, saying that her appointment was not an . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromShergill and Others v Khaira and Others SC 11-Jun-2014
The parties disputed the trusts upon which three Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) were held. The Court of Appeal had held that the issues underlying the dispute were to be found in matters of the faith of the Sikh parties, and had ordered a permanent stay. . .
Main JudgmentShergill v Khaira and Others CA 2-Oct-2012
. .
CA CostsShergill and Others v Khaira and Others SC 11-Jun-2014
The parties disputed the trusts upon which three Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) were held. The Court of Appeal had held that the issues underlying the dispute were to be found in matters of the faith of the Sikh parties, and had ordered a permanent stay. . .
CitedBelhaj and Another v Straw and Others SC 17-Jan-2017
The claimant alleged complicity by the defendant, (now former) Foreign Secretary, in his mistreatment by the US while held in Libya. He also alleged involvement in his unlawful abduction and removal to Libya, from which had had fled for political . .
See AlsoKhaira and Others v Shergill and Others ChD 23-Mar-2016
. .
See AlsoShergill and Others v Khaira and Others ChD 3-Mar-2017
The court considered the identification of one of the ancient Sikh gurus in order to ascertain the rights of current gurdwaras . .
See AlsoKhaira and Others v Shergill and Others CA 27-Oct-2017
‘This appeal raises technical but important issues on the entitlement of a party who is awarded the costs of an interlocutory appeal to an immediate assessment of those costs. Two issues of general application arise. First, is the party entitled to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Charity, Ecclesiastical, Trusts

Updated: 14 June 2022; Ref: scu.462895