When Hardeep took on the Maharaj: Big win but big fee

It was a principled stand by Hardeep Singh when he wrote what proved to be his offending article in the Sikh Times back in 2007 in which he accused the self proclaimed Indian religious figure known as His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj of being a less than genuine person who it could be claimed was linked to a religious 'cult' (that's with an 'l' Mr Paxman).

The evil Maharaj (sorry that was in Moulin Rouge)- correction, His Holiness Ji Maharaj used the much maligned and welcoming pastures of England's libel tourism grounds to instigate libel proceedings against Hardeep. The Sikh Times rushed out an apology and so the focus was on Hardeep (or Hardup if he lost - apologies but it was too tempting a gag) to stand up to this latest blatant abuse of legal process.

Libel tourism explainer: the courts of England & Wales (in practice the High Court and Court of Appeal in London) have procedurally and in successive judgments(though admittedly not all - see Jameel v Dow Jones) embraced and entertained legal actions brought by non UK nationals in the UK (English) courts against not just UK but also foreign nationals. So we had the Wall Street Journal (US) sued by the Jameel brothers (Saudi) or Roman Polanski (in exile in France) being allowed to testify by video link into an English court (video link so he couldn't be arrested for sexual offences and extradited from the UK to the US).... need one say more.

So back to Hardeep and he, valliantly or optimistically, thought it was time to make a stand against this nonsense and take on the Maharaj.

What is interesting (amongst the many aspects) in this case is that the much maligned CFA is (courtesy of the media terminators at Carter Ruck) enabled Hardeep to push back against the existing ludicrous loophole in our laws. The second point to note is - what is seemingly set to land the moral (though not immediately or necessarily) the financial ball in Hardeep's court - namely the procedural requirement that can be engaged that requires litigants to make a costs payment into court before they continue their touristic exploits.

It seems as if the Maharaj's coffers may not extend to making such a payment and in absence of that the case will be thrown out of the Court of Appeal and Hardeep will win. This may however prove to be a proverbially Pyrrhic victory if the costs to date cannot be collected from the Maharaj through the Indian legal system. Nevertheless, one has to say hats (or turbans) off to Hardeep for making what is a necessary stand against a blatantly wrong system which will hopefully give the current legislators food for thought when they overhaul (through the Libel Reform Bill) the ailing statute book that is letting both litigants and lawyers down.

More on this from The Independent

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