Will British Sikhs get separate ethnic recognition for 2021 census? UK High Court to deliver verdict

The United Kingdom High Court in London on Wednesday concluded hearing a British Sikh group's case for a separate Sikh ethnicity tick box in the next UK census in 2021.

The Sikh Federation UK, represented by the law firm Leigh Day at the Royal Courts of Justice
The Sikh Federation UK was represented by the law firm Leigh Day at the Royal Courts of Justice. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

Judge Beverley Lang reserved her judgment after the two-day hearing considered the submissions presented by the Sikh Federation UK and the counter-arguments of the UK Cabinet Office.

The Sikh Federation UK, represented by the law firm Leigh Day at the Royal Courts of Justice, believes it would be "unlawful" for the Cabinet Office to lay before Parliament a Census Order based on the proposals set out by the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) in its December 2018 White Paper, which had rejected the need for a separate tick box.

"There is overwhelming public, Sikh community and cross-party support. We have been forced to go to the High Court on Guru Nanak 550 to tackle discrimination," Sikh Federation UK said in a Twitter statement in reference to the proceedings coinciding with the 550th Guru Nanak birth anniversary celebrations on Tuesday.

Sikhs are recognised as a separate religion in the optional religious question introduced in the 2001 Census. 

The Sikh Federation UK, which claims the backing of hundreds of UK gurdwaras, stated that public bodies tend to only refer to the ethnic groups used in the census and demanded a separate Sikh ethnic tick box to ensure Sikhs have fair access to all public services.

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO), a British Sikh group led by Indian-origin peer Lord Indrajit Singh, took a different stand on the issue, saying that the occasion of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak should be reflective of his principles of one common humanity, away from "artificial labels" like caste, denomination, status and ethnicity.

"Sikhs are adequately recorded in the Census under religion, and the ONS made the right decision in rejecting the Sikh Federation UK's calls for a Sikh ‘ethnic’ tick box," said a spokesperson for the NSO.

CtoI News Desk
CtoI News Desk – CtoI

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