Sikh groups threaten legal action against Scottish government over census – Times of India


The Sikh Federation UK (SFUK) is threatening the Scottish government with legal action claiming discrimination for failing to include a tick-box response option for Sikhs in the ethnicity section of its proposed census.
The federation claims that this contravenes the European Convention of Human Rights, EU law and the Equality Act 2010.
On 4 March 2020 the Scottish Parliament approved the draft Census Order for Scotland’s March 2021 Census. Sikhs were not a response option for the ethnicity question, though Indian, Scottish Indian and British Indian were.
The federation, backed by over 150 gurdwaras and Sikh organisations, has via its lawyers, given two weeks notice to Scottish ministers to lay an amended Census Order in the Scottish Parliament with a Sikh ethnic tick box response option included, or face a discrimination lawsuit.
Their pre-action letter states “UK law recognises the Sikh community has a distinct ethnic identity that was confirmed by the House of Lords in Mandla (Sewa Singh) v Dowell Lee [1983].” This is referring to a case about a boy Gurinder Singh Mandla who was refused entry to his school in Birmingham because he was wearing a turban in 1978. His parents took the case to the Commission for Racial Equality and the House of Lords, which at that time had a judicial role.
The House of Lords held that “ethnic origins meant a group distinguished from others by a sufficient combination of shared customs, beliefs, traditions and characteristics derived from a common or presumed common past” and “that Sikhs were in that sense a racial group, although they were not biologically distinguishable from the other peoples of the Punjab.”
The Scottish government is proposing that the question on ethnic group will include a prompt to write ‘Sikh’ as a response in the ‘other ethnic group’ section. But the federation says this does not go far enough. Without a Sikh ethnicity tick-box on the next census, the federation claims the Sikh community will continue to be at a disadvantage in relation to the allocation of public resources.
“Sikhs in Scotland are consistently being overlooked and discriminated against by public bodies in deciding policies that impact on them. Without a specific Sikh ethnic tick box response option in the Census 2021, Sikhs in Scotland will fail to be properly monitored by public bodies and would as a result continue to face discrimination in terms of the fair allocation of resources and provision of public services,” said Harnek Singh, National Press Secretary, SFUK.
The federation also on 16 April brought a second judicial review in the High Court against the Cabinet Office over the draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2020 which was laid before Parliament on 2 March 2020. The proposed questions also omit a Sikh response option to the ethnicity question. Instead the only option is “Asian/Asian British” and within that “Indian” can be selected.
The SFUK is simultaneously appealing the High Court ruling from 12 December 2019 which stated that their first judicial review over a Sikh tick box in the England and Wales census was premature because the draft Census Order had not yet been laid. That appeal was lodged on 3 January 2020 in the Court of Appeal.
“Now that the draft Census Order has been laid before Parliament, our lawyers advised us that we have to now put in a second judicial review,” explained Davinder Singh, principal adviser to SFUK.
A spokesperson for the Network of Sikh Organisations slammed it as “frivolous litigation.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “National Records of Scotland (NRS) is committed to delivering questions which enable everyone in Scotland to access, understand and complete the census.”


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