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As Vaughan Jones awaits the verdict in his libel case, he and Hardeep Singh discuss what it’s like to be sued, and what next for libel reform
His three-year defamation battle may be over, but Hardeep Singh still faces an uphill battle to recover his costs
The four-year libel ordeal of British Sikh journalist Hardeep Singh took a significant turn today, when a court ordered that Indian claimant Baba Jeet Singh must pay £250,000 in security before an appeal begins in the case. Jeet Singh is suing over several claims made about him by Hardeep Singh in UK-based newspaper The Sikh Times. Last year, Mr Justice Eady had ruled that the secular court could not rule on matters of religious doctrine
Today’s ruling came after Jeet Singh’s UK lawyers, Ford & Warren, informed the court that they had not received instruction from the self-proclaimed holy man on the conduct of the appeal. The solicitors requested they no longer be listed on the court record as acting for Jeet Singh.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard on 28 February. But it now seems unlikely that hearing will go ahead, considering the holy man is nowhere to be found, and hence would seem unlikely to lodge £250,000 in the court within a fortnight, as ordered.
Interesting news ahead of a Court of Appeal hearing on security for costs in the Hardeep Singh case. In October High Court judge Lady Justice Smith granted Indian national Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj the right to appeal in his libel case against journalist Hardeep Singh.
Ahead of the hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, Jeet Singh’s solicitors Ford & Warren wrote to the Court of Appeal to inform it that they are now in the process of making an application to come off the court record as acting for Jeet Singh.
The case centres on an article that 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. The article also connected his followers with conflict in UK temples. The claimant — a self proclaimed “Holy Man” — has never visited the United Kingdom.
In May 2010 a High Court judge threw out the case brought against freelance British journalist Hardeep Singh. Mr Justice Eady ruled for a permanent stay with no right to appeal. Eady’s judgment held that secular courts should not make a judgment on a religious dispute.
The claiment’s 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.