Supreme Court rules on trusteeship of religious place of worship

Posted: 11/07/2014


The Supreme Court has ruled that the English courts can determine issues regarding the trusteeship and governance of religious places of worship where there are civil law consequences.

The case of Shergill and others v Khaira and others [2014] All ER (D) 83 Jun involved a dispute about a trust deed in respect of property held by a Sikh Gurdwara. In summary, the appellants were seeking a declaration that the removal of trustees was lawful. The removed trustees were looking to strike out the proceedings on the basis that the matter was religious and therefore could not be decided by the court.

The Supreme Court concluded that issues which involved the extent of the powers of trustees resident in England and holding property situated in England could properly be determined by the English courts. The Supreme Court also ruled that the interpretation of a trust deed executed in England concerning property in England and intended to be governed by English law could be determined by the English courts.

Generally, civil courts are unable to determine issues regarding the truth of religious beliefs or the validity of right and rituals. However, in this case the dispute involved questions about who the trustees were and the interpretation of a trust, and those issues were matters which could be dealt with by the courts.


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