Back to the Future: Justiciability, Religion, and the Figment
of 'Judicial No-Man's Land'
Public Law Issue 2, April 2016, pp. 198-206
14 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2017
Date Written: April 29, 2016
In Shergill & Others v. Khaira & others the UK Supreme Court determined that religious disputes are ‘justiciable’ before the secular courts, and rejected Mummery LJ’s decision below that religion was “a judicial no man’s land.” The case concerned the power of a Sikh Holy Saint to dismiss trustees who questioned his ‘succession’ to the religious institution of the Nirmal Kutia Johal, which arose in India in the 1920s. In holding that there is jurisdiction to determine this matter, the Supreme Court in Shergill has left no doubt that the courts of the land are open for the resolution of disputes from non-traditional believers as much as from traditional believers. The judgment enhances the public interest in a meaningful shared citizenship where people of diverse religious and other backgrounds can share common institutions and a life together, and reverses a trend that had been developing during the twentieth century of treating such cases as non-justiciable.
Keywords: charitable trusts, justiciability, religious groups, Sikhism, trustees
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