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England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions >> Rai v Bholowasia & Anor  EWHC 382 (QB) (16 February 2015)
Cite as:  EWHC 382 (QB)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
Sitting as a Judge of the High Court
| ABKAR SINGH RAI
|- and -
|(1) JASKARAN SINGH BHOLOWASIA
(2) PARDES WEEKLY (UK) LTD
The First Defendant represented himself and the Second Defendant
Hearing dates: 19 -27 January 2015
Crown Copyright ©
RICHARD PARKES QC :
THE PUBLICATIONS COMPLAINED OF
"BROTHER-IN-LAW OF SRI GURU SINGH SABHA SOUTHALL'S PRESIDENT FOUND RED-HANDED STEALING GOLAK'S MONEY
- Serious assault on brave Navpreet Singh and life threats given to him & his family
- Majority of committee members trying to cover up the matter CCTV off
Southall (Pardes Bureau): With great disappointment we have to report that those chosen devoted people on whom we repose our trust and confidence as gatekeepers of our faith have today deceived us with their insatiable thirst for greed and ravenousness. They have chosen to become poachers while we thought them are to be gatekeepers of our places of worship. When the congregation puts trust in people and hands over the keys of the Gurdwara and the same trusted people fill their own pockets with the Golak money, then what worse could we ever expect in life? Today we are facing a crisis of deceit from people whom we trusted not only with our devotion but also with God's money.
Whilst this has been going on for a long time but last week when Gurdwara donation money box (Golak) was being counted than Navpreet Singh, an employee appointed by the current committee, saw this he could not ignore it. This Gursikh took courage and held Onkar Singh's (brother-in-law of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall's president) wrist while putting money in his pocket and handed him over to Bahadur Singh Keila (Acting Treasurer whose wife is the Treasurer of the Sabha). To hide the fact from other people over there Bahadur Singh took Onkar Singh to the office on the first floor and got the money out of Onkar's pocket. After this Onkar Singh disappeared from there but when some honest people in the committee raised this matter then the keys were taken from Onkar Singh and since then he is hardly seen around.
According to the information received Onkar Singh did not let the matter end here, he conspired with his brother-in-law and others and came up with a plan and in accordance with this plan sent four thugs to teach Navpreet Singh a lesson. Three of these thugs had covered their faces except for a tall young man. These four thugs waited outside 11 Beaconsfield Road and as soon as Navpreet Singh came out from his residence at about 4:45 am to go to join his duties at Park Avenue Gurdwara they attacked him causing severe injuries to his head, arm and legs. Ambulance and police had to be called. Soon after Dr Parvinder Singh Garcha, the Sabha's General Secretary with a number of his confidants. They followed the ambulance and reached Ealing Hospital.
At the hospital Dr Garcha took used advantage of being a doctor, impressed upon the nurses and brought Navpreet Singh with him before he could have received full treatment. He was threatened by various people that he would lose his life and even told him that they would do that even in India. After these threats Navpreet whereabouts became unknown. When "Pardes Weekly" received a heart touching letter from a friend of Navpreet Singh's friend, "Pardes Weekly" immediately contacted Met Police Commissioner to ensure Navpreet Singh's safety and security. Police informed "Pardes Weekly" that they have two reports and are in contact with Navpreet Singh. The thugs have threatened Navpreet Singh so much that he is too scared to fully brief the police about his own as well as his family's safety. Ealing Police Spokeswoman said that "We can confirm police were called by London Ambulance Service at approximately 0510 hours on Saturday 27 April to reports of an assault in Southall, UB1. The victim, a 26 year old man, walking along Park Avenue, when he was set upon by around for unknown of Asian males. He was treated at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries. He was taken to a West London hospital and has since been discharged. There have been no arrests and enquiries continue." Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.
When "Pardes Weekly" contacted Himmat Singh Sohi, the Sabha's President, to make enquiries he stated that there is no evidence and the CCTV was also off. It is worth observation and very obvious that when everything from Gurdwara keys to Golak keys (money box) and even from CCTV footages to offenders themselves are hand in gloves with each other - then could we expect for any form of evidence to emerge?
When Bahadur Singh was contacted about this, he made an excuse stating he was very busy so we should contact Dr Garcha, the General Secretary.
It is not surprising that Himmat Singh Sohi's brother-in-law Onkar Singh was caught stealing red-handed but amazingly surprised to note that so-called volunteers are shamelessly trying to cover up the matter.
"Pardes Weekly" also contacted the Trustees and they said that whilst they have received information about this but they can only comment after making enquiries. You must remember that "Pardes Weekly" is the only paper which fearlessly reports thuggery and dishonesty at Gurdwaras to safeguard the Gurdwara interests and will continue to do so."
i) he was caught 'red-handed' stealing money whilst in a position of immense trust and duty to his faith and his community; a position which demanded utter integrity, but in breach of which he stole money from the holy donation box;
ii) he conspired with others to arrange for four 'thugs' to carry out a serious assault, causing severe injuries to the head, arms and legs, to the man who had seen and reported the claimant for the theft from the donation box;
iii) he was involved in and/or partly responsible for threats to kill the man and his family, who had seen and reported the claimant for the theft, which caused this man (Navpreet Singh) to be too scared to fully 'brief' the police for fear of his own and his family's safety.
Articles 2 and 3
"BROTHER-IN-LAW OF SRI GURU SINGH SABHA'S SOUTHALL PRESIDENT FOUND RED HANDED STEALING CHARITY CASH BOX (GOLAK)
- Serious assault and life threat to a person who disclosed the incidence
- Sufferer Youngman is in police contact
- Majority of committee members are trying to cover up the matter
- According to the president, there is no proof
With great regret I have to write that when the guards start to rob then only God is the saviour. When Sangat (congregation) trusted devotees and placed their confidence in them and handed over the keys to the charity cash box to look after it, if those people put the donated money in their own pockets then who will be the vanguard.
According to the information this activity has being going on for a long time. This time their own employee Navpreet Singh saw this happening. He could not help it, he took courage and got hold of Onkar Singh in front of the persons who are counting money. He handed over him to Bahadur Singh Keila, husband of the treasurer of the committee. To hide the fact from other people, Bahadur Singh took Onkar Singh to the office on the first floor and got the money out of his pocket. After this Onkar Singh disappeared from the scene. When other honest persons who were there raised their voice, then keys of the charity box were taken from Onkar Singh Rai. He felt ashamed and has never shown his face in the Sangat.
According to the information Onkar Singh did not stop here. He made a plan in collaboration with his brother-in-law Himmat Singh Sohi to teach a lesson to Navpreet Singh. So according to the plan they sent four musclemen, among these four, three of them covered their faces but the fourth tall person did not cover his face. These four persons were waiting for him in front of No.11 Beaconsfield Road Southall in morning. When Navpreet Singh at 0445 left the house to take up his duties, they attacked him and he was seriously injured, his head, arm and hip was badly hurt. Ambulance and police were called. By the time the general secretary Parvinder Singh Garcha arrived there were some men and followed the ambulance and reached at Ealing Hospital. Arriving at hospital Mr Garcha took undue advantage of his GP status. He pursued the nursing staff and took Navpreet Singh back with him. He did not even received proper treatment. He was so much threatened, that he will lose everything here and in India. After receiving these threats Navpreet disappeared.
When a friend of Navpreet wrote this tragic story to the Pardes Weekly then considering the safety and security of Navpreet, Pardes Weekly contacted the Met police. In response, police revealed that they have two reports concerning Navpreet and Navpreet is also in touch with the police. The police also told that they have been already informed by the ambulance. They disclosed that the investigation is going on regarding this matter but there is no arrest. Police also announced to the people, if anyone got any information about this case, the person should immediately inform the police by dialling 101. On the other side Navpreet is so much frightened and in view of his and his family's security, he is not telling the story explicitly.
When Pardes Weekly asked the president, Himmat Singh Sohi, about this matter, he replied "There is no proof of it, and CCTV was also not on". It is worth mentioning that they own CCTV, charity cash box, keys also with them and thief also belongs to them then how the proof can be traced. When Bahadur Singh was asked about this, he made an excuse that he is too busy, so general secretary Mr Garcha can be contacted.
It is not surprising that Himmat Singh Sohi's brother-in-law Onkar Singh was caught stealing, astonishing thing is that in the garb of a perfect sikh, these so-called Gursikh volunteers are covering the matter. Pardes Weekly has also talked to the trustees but their reply was that they can only say something after the enquiry. We have some information about his. Remember that Pardes Weekly is the only paper which in the interest of the gurdwara dauntlessly reports about dishonesty and hooliganism to the Sangat and will continue to do so."
[There follows a Sikh greeting which is not translated]
Theft of Gurdwara's charity box cash box (Golak) news came to light through last week's Pardes Weekly. This unfortunate incident must be condemned as much as possible .
. We the Lion Group demand an independent enquiry committee of theft of charity cash box and also advise that Sohi group and all members to resign on ethical grounds. If they do not resign then we request trustees that they should use their powers to dismiss the committee. Until the new election and report of the theft enquiry committee comes out. Till that time independent receiver should be appointed. We are, Lion Group."
"SRI GURU SINGH SABHA'S THIEVES HAVE STOLEN THE PARDES WEEKLY PAPER FROM THE SHOPS
Pardes Weekly Chief Editor's life was threatened
It is so sorry to write that last week Sri Guru Singh Sabha's committee sent the hired gangsters to take away Pardes Weekly paper. This misdeed revealed their real face. This proves that is not only President's brother-in-law is a thief but this is a gang of thieves.
They have stolen the paper from all the shops by saying that they need this paper for Gurdwara. They tried every way to snatch paper from people and took away papers from the van as well.
Due to their activities and on demand of readers we are repeating the news again. These disgusting activities at some places are captured by the CCTV and it has been reported to the police.
They have become so mean, that they are threatening to kill Jaskaran from Pakistan on telephone.
Scotland Yard is taking this matter seriously and will soon find out the facts so that Pakistani links can be brought to light."
"THE TALE OF SRI GURU SINGH SABHA GOLAK THEFT
Have I told an untruth, no I have not, no I have not
Pardes Weekly, in the last few days Sri Guru Singh Sabha golak theft stories have been published. Once again this has caused uproar. Those who are against us in exposing this have used various methods to disguise the truth.
Since the theft was caught it is from that day they have organised a cover-up by publishing in other Southall papers. They have published leaflets of this and distributed them within the gurdwaras. They cross the limits when they sent these leaflets to all members homes. To cover their tracks they have spent an enormous amount of sangat's Golak monies. To top it all they have collected Pardes Weekly papers in order to stop this distribution of news. They have published in other papers advertisement in order to justify their claims of being truthful.
They have written in other papers that Pardes Weekly spreads untruths. Dear loving readers please note we only write the truth and will only ever write the truth.
Their untruthfulness came to light when Pardes Weekly office received a CD of their misdeeds. The contents of this CD of 27 April is a recording of the conversation of Dr Garcha and the victim which separates the water from the milk. In this CD the general secretary of Sir Guru Singh Sabha admits whatever happened should not have taken place and by his own admission accepts responsibility and we are ashamed. In gurdwaras no such incidences should take place and he also asked the boy not to give anyone a statement.
He also accepted that he has two cameras CCTV footage and the thief has been removed from his duty at the gurdwara, however the truth is that the keys of the gurdwara are still with the brother-in-law of Himmat Singh, Onkar Singh aka Upkar Singh aka Abkar Singh.
In this CD, Deepa of Norwood Green Hall's making a scheme is identified. The police have come to Pardes Weekly and collected this CD.
Pardes Weekly has received many threats regarding this matter because Pardes Weekly has brought to light of the sangat the theft and thuggery going on at the gurdwara, but they are using all means legal and illegal to cover up this matter.
Dear loving readers you all know that we always support the truth and will continue to do so. We are always willing to stand up for the truth and respond to tit for tat.
Golak theft exposing CD has arrived at Pardes Weekly office."
i) there is a CD of a recording of 27th of April between a Dr Garcha, the General Secretary of the Temple, in which he admits to a victim that the thief has been removed from his duty at the Temple but that the keys to the Temple are still with him (ie the claimant is named as being the key holder and therefore the thief);
ii) the claimant is involved in or implicated in the threats being made to the defendant's staff following the revelation of a theft by the claimant and revelation of the thuggery going on at the Temple.
i) The defendants' receipt of a letter from a person who described himself as Navpreet Singh's friend, which confirmed the danger facing Navpreet, a worker at the gurdwara who witnessed the claimant take money from the Golak;
ii) A witness statement (not served) from an un-named person who worked alongside Navpreet and provided 'compelling evidence' confirming the claimant's 'repeated thefts' from gurdwara funds;
iii) Reports made to the police, apparently by the first defendant;
iv) The contents of a CD containing recordings of Navpreet Singh in various conversations with senior executive members of the gurdwara and a friend; and
v) The theft of the newspapers on 11 and 12 May 2013 from a Hindu temple in Southall and a shop on King Street, Southall, and witness evidence of those who observed the theft.
i) The words published related to matters of public and/or general concern, particularly in the community to which the words were published;
ii) The steps taken to publish were fair and reasonable;
iii) By the time they were published, extensive research had been undertaken into the matters alleged;
iv) On receipt of the information, the allegations were corroborated as far as possible and attempts made to put the allegations to the claimant and obtain a response;
v) When published, the matters remained of current concern to the readership and the defendants had a moral or social duty to publish the words complained of and the public had a corresponding legal interest in receiving the information.
" that even if the attempts to speak to those individuals had not been made, the defendants were still justified in making the publications on grounds of the extremely serious nature of the disclosures. The publications were justified as they related to the conduct of individuals in a public office, or closely related to individuals in a public office. They were fair comment in that they related to matters of a compelling public interest and the defendants believed that to be the case at the time of publication."
THE EVIDENCE: JUSTIFICATION
23 April 2013: the alleged theft
The assault on Navpreet Singh and threats made against him
Question: When did you hear of the beating to Mr Navpreet Singh?
Answer: When I asked one [inaudible] at the Park Avenue gurdwara where was Navpreet this morning, he told me he's got beaten up in the morning that's when I heard.
Question: On 27th?
Answer: I don't know (inaudible] exactly what day, the day that he was beaten up, that morning. It was half past six, or something [inaudible]. I asked somebody where is Navpreet, he said he was beaten up.
Removal of copies of Pardes Weekly
Threats to defendants
Conclusion on justification
"To the chief editor: I feel hurted while writing these words as I am a worker of gurdwara and being an employee of gurdwara I am trying to do my duty. "
On 23rd of April 2013, at the time of counting charity box money, Onkar Singh, brother-in-law of President Himmat Singh Sohi, picked money and put in his pocket. This was going on for a long time but this time Navpreet Singh, friend of mine who is an employee of gurdwara, could not bear it. He held Onkar Singh's wrist. Bahadur Singh who is a husband of the treasurer took him to the office and made him to take the money out his pocket and tried to close the chapter then and there. Navpreet Singh was threatened that if he disclosed this news outside, he will be sacked from his job and threatened that he could lose his life. His visa is going to finish soon and he will not be spared in India as well.
On 27th of April 2013, when Navpreet as usual left his house for workplace at 5:00 AM, five gangsters attacked him and bashed him badly and threatened that if he uttered his name again, they will kill him. I am writing this, because this sort of scandalous behaviour and theft of charity box should not prevail. Please keep it as secret.
11, Beaconsfield Road, Southall."
The elements of Reynolds privilege
i) The seriousness of the allegation. The more serious the charge, the more the public is misinformed and the individual harmed, if the allegation is not true.
ii) The nature of the allegation, and the extent to which the subject matter is a matter of public concern.
iii) The source of the information. Some informants have no direct knowledge of the events. Some have their own axes to grind, or are being paid for their stories.
iv) The steps taken to verify the information.
v) The status of the information. The allegation may have already been the subject of investigation which commands respect.
vi) The urgency of the matter. News is often a perishable commodity.
vii) Whether comment was sought from the plaintiff. He may have information others do not possess or have not disclosed. An approach to the plaintiff will not always be necessary.
viii) Whether the article contained the gist of the plaintiff's side of the story.
ix) The tone of the article. A newspaper can raise queries or call from investigation. It need not adopt allegations as statements of fact.
x) The circumstances of the publication, including the timing.
In such a case the public interest in learning of the allegation lies in the fact that it is, or may be, true. It is in this situation that the responsible journalist must give consideration to the likelihood that the allegation is true. Reynolds privilege absolves the publisher from the need to justify his defamatory publication, but the privilege will normally only be earned where the publisher has taken reasonable steps to satisfy himself that the allegation is true before he publishes it. Lord Hoffmann put his finger on this distinction in Jameel's case  1 AC 359,  when he said
'In most cases the Reynolds defence will not get off the ground unless the journalist honestly and reasonably believed that the statement was true, but there are cases ('reportage') in which the public interest lies simply in the fact that the statement was made, when it may be clear that the publisher does not subscribe to any belief in its truth.'
Thus verification involves both a subjective and an objective element. The responsible journalist must satisfy himself that the allegation that he publishes is true. And his belief in its truth must be the result of a reasonable investigation and must be a reasonable belief to hold.
Conclusions on Reynolds privilege
DUTY/INTEREST QUALIFIED PRIVILEGE
"The defendants had a moral and/or social duty to publish the articles. There was no malice intended by the defendants. The alleged theft and violence concerned a public matter, therefore it was a matter of public policy and the common convenience and welfare of society that the defendants published the articles. In undertaking their moral duties, the defendants informed police of the complaint letter received and also the CD. See correspondence between the defendants and the police "
The fundamental principle was that a statement was protected by privilege only if the publication of it was to persons who had a proper interest or duty in the matter with which it was concerned, and the public as a whole was not generally regarded as having a relevant interest or duty. The media defendant (or other defendant who caused his statement to be published in that way) was in no different position from anyone else and had to show the relevant reciprocity of duty and interest. Such a duty only arose:
'where it is in the interests of the public that the publication should be made, and will not arise simply because the information appears to be of legitimate public interest'.
A privilege for publication to the world at large was, in English law, the exception rather than the rule, even if the subject matter was politics or public affairs. (Gatley on Libel & Slander, 12th ed., para 14.1, citing Cantley J in London Artists v Littler  1 WLR 607 at 619).
"I cannot extract from any of those authorities any relaxation of the requirements incorporated in that question. No privilege attaches yet to a statement on a matter of public interest believed by the publisher to be true in relation to which he has exercised reasonable care. That needed statutory enactment which the Committee on Defamation refused to recommend: see paragraphs 211-215. "Fair information on a matter of public interest" is not enough without a duty to publish it and I do not understand Pearson J.'s ruling in Webb v Times Publishing Co  QB 535 that a plea of a fair and accurate report of foreign judicial proceedings was not demurrable, was intended to convey that it was enough. Public interest and public benefit are necessary but not enough without more. There must be a duty to publish to the public at large and an interest in the public at large to receive the publication; and a section of the public is not enough.
The subject matter must be of public interest; its publication must be in the public interest. That nature of the matter published and its source and the position or status of the publisher distributing the information must be such as to create the duty to publish the information to the intended recipients, in this case the readers of the "Daily Telegraph." Where damaging facts have been ascertained to be true, or been made the subject of a report, there may be a duty to report them (see, e.g., Cox v Feeney 4 F&F 13i; Perera v Peiris  AC 1 and Dunford Publicity Studios Ltd. v. News Media Ownership Ltd.  N.Z.L.R. 961), provided the public interest is wide enough: Chapman v Ellesmere  2 KB 431. But where damaging allegations or charges have been made and are still under investigation (Purcell v. Sowler, 2 C.P.D. 215 ), or have been authoritatively refuted (Adam v Ward  AC 309), there can be no duty to report them to the public.
.There may be extreme cases where the urgency of communicating a warning is so great, or the source of the information so reliable, that publication of suspicion or speculation is justified; for example, where there is danger to the public from a suspected terrorist or the distribution of contaminated food or drugs; but there is nothing of that sort here."
"I think that states the principle rather too widely. It is necessary to a satisfactory law of defamation that there should be privileged occasions. But the existence of privilege involves a balance of conflicting pressures. On the one hand there is the need that the press should be able to publish fearlessly what is necessary for the protection of the public. On the other hand there is the need to protect the individual from falsehoods. I think there are cases where the test of "legitimate and proper interest to English newspaper readers" would tilt the balance to an unacceptable degree against the individual. It would, it seems to me, protect persons who disseminate
"any untrue defamatory information of apparently legitimate public interest, provided only that they honestly believed it and honestly thought that it was information which the public ought to have" (See London Artists v Littler  WLR 607, 615)".
Their Lordships consider that this was a misconceived argument. The Reynolds test is more easily satisfied, being a liberalisation of the traditional rules, and it is more difficult to bring a case within the latter. They are satisfied that the publication was not covered by traditional qualified privilege, for the element of reciprocity of duty and interest was lacking when the defendant knowingly made it to the public at large via the attendant media. If privilege was to be successfully claimed, it could only be under the Reynolds principles and, as they have said, those principles applied to the case.
" indifference to the truth of what he publishes is not to be equated with carelessness, impulsiveness or irrationality in arriving at a positive belief that it is true. The freedom of speech protected by the law of qualified privilege may be availed by all sorts and conditions of men. In affording to them immunity from suit if they have acted in good faith in compliance with a legal or moral duty or in protection of a legitimate interest the law must take them as it finds them. In ordinary life it is rare indeed for people to form their beliefs by a process of logical deduction from facts ascertained by a rigorous search for all available evidence and a judicious assessment of its probative value. In greater or less degree according to their temperaments, their training, that intelligence, they are swayed by prejudice, rely on intuition instead of reasoning, leap to conclusions on inadequate evidence and fail to recognise the cogency of material which might cast doubt on the validity of the conclusions they reach. But despite the imperfection of the mental process by which the belief is arrived at it may still be honest, that is, a positive belief that's the conclusions they have reached are true. The law demands no more."
"The successful plaintiff in a defamation action is entitled to recover, as general compensatory damages, such sum as will compensate him for the wrong he has suffered. That sum must compensate him for the damage to his reputation; vindicate his good name; and take account of the distress, hurt and humiliation which the defamatory publication has caused. In assessing the appropriate damages for injury to reputation the most important factor is the gravity of the libel; the more closely it touches the plaintiff's personal integrity, professional reputation, honour, courage, loyalty and the core attributes of his personality, the more serious it is likely to be. The extent of publication is also very relevant: a libel published to millions has a greater potential to cause damage than a libel published to a handful of people. A successful plaintiff may properly look to an award of damages to vindicate his reputation: but the significance of this is much greater in a case where the defendant asserts the truth of the libel and refuses any retraction or apology than in a case where the defendant acknowledges the falsity of what was published and publicly expresses regret that the libellous publication took place. It is well established that compensatory damages may and should compensate for additional injury caused to the plaintiff's feelings by the defendant's conduct of the action, as when he persists in an unfounded assertion that the publication was true, or refuses to apologise, or cross-examines the plaintiff in a wounding or insulting way. "
i) In Miller v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 3721 (QB), the claimant sued on a story in the Daily Mail that he was a willing beneficiary of improper conduct and cronyism because of his friendship with the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police over the award of a multi-million pound contract to his management consultancy. The defence of justification failed at trial, and there was no apology. Damages were assessed at £65,000.
ii) Cambridge v Makin [2011 EWHC 12 (QB) was a case in which the claimant was accused in an email sent to about 1000 members of her own profession of abusing her position as a director of a not for profit company, which administered a register of professional linguists for public sector bodies, by granting a licence from which she stood to gain personally, in conflict with the interests of those whom as a director of the company she was bound to protect. Malice was established. Damages were assessed at £30,000, which took account of a settlement of £30,000 already received from the second defendant.
iii) Finally, Ms Kumar referred to Flood v Times Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 4075 (QB), where the claimant police officer sued on an article published in The Times Online over a two year period to the effect that there were strong grounds to believe that he had abused his position as a police officer with the Metropolitan Police Extradition Unit by corruptly accepting £20,000 in bribes from some of Russia's most wanted suspected criminals in return for selling them highly confidential Home Office and police intelligence about attempts to extradite them to Russia to face criminal charges, and had thereby committed an appalling breach of duty and betrayal of trust, as well as a very serious criminal offence. Nicola Davies J awarded him £45,000 by way of general damages, together with £15,000 for aggravation by reason of the defendant's conduct.