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​Sikh Federation UK to seek permission to appeal High Court census ruling

The Sikh Federation UK have announced that they will be seeking permission to appeal the High Court judgment handed down yesterday which dismissed their judicial review of the government’s decision not to include a tick box for ethnic Sikhs on the census due to take place in 2021.

Census

13 December 2019

The claim was dismissed by the court on the grounds that it is premature and therefore should have been brought once the Census Order has been made, not before. The Sikh Federation UK argued in their case that they brought the challenge early so as not to delay census.

The Census White Paper was published in December 2018 and was immediately challenged in Parliament by MPs led by the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group of British Sikhs. The Sikh Federation UK engaged with the Cabinet Office Minister and Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the issue from January to May 2019. Judicial review proceedings were issued as it became clear to the Federation that the ONS was not willing to accept that their process may have been flawed. Proceedings were issued at this stage so as to avoid delaying the census process.

The draft Census Order was expected in Autumn 2019 but it has not yet been laid before parliament.

In their legal claim the Federation argued that the government’s proposals for the Census 2021, in particular the decision not to include the option of a tick-box for the Sikh ethnic group, were unlawful. 

The decision not to include a tick-box for the Sikh ethnic group was made following a recommendation by the Office of National Statistic (ONS). The Federation argued in their case that the process that led to this decision was unlawful because the ONS relied on results from an external company called Kantar who used different criteria in their analysis to that which the ONS had said they would use. This issue was not determined by the High Court.

The Sikh Federation UK believe that it is of great importance to have the Sikh ethnic tick-box included in the 2021 census as not all people who would identify as ethnically Sikh, identify as religiously Sikh. The census would therefore not give an accurate picture on the number of ethnic Sikhs in the UK and this would lead that group to be left out of government decisions on funding and provisions of public services which are made based on the census data. The Federation estimates that there are approximately 700-800,000 ethnic Sikhs in the UK.

Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation UK, said:

“This ruling necessitates the Cabinet Office Minister to challenge and take an independent view on the evidence presented in court and decide whether to include the Sikh ethnic group tick box option in the draft Census Order to be presented to Parliament.  The Minister now also knows from the High Court ruling that the Order in Council will be open to judicial review challenge.
 
“We will in the next 21 days be appealing to the Court of Appeal arguing why we are not too early, so the arguments set out in our judicial review claim and presented to the High Court at the hearing in November concerning the need for a Sikh ethnic tick box can be substantively considered and a judgment given.  The Cabinet Office Minister has failed to lay a draft Order in Parliament for almost a year since the publication of the 2018 White Paper.”

Rosa Curling, solicitor from Leigh Day, added:

“Our client believes that it is of great importance that ethnic Sikhs are given the opportunity to mark their ethnicity on the census in 2021 so that an accurate picture of ethnic Sikhs in the UK can be established to inform government decisions and meet community needs. We will now be working with them on their application to appeal.”

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