Menu My portfolio: 0

Not for court to rule on whether Parliament should include Sikh ethnic group’ tick box on Census

R (Gill on behalf of the Sikh Federation) v The Cabinet Office [2019] EWHC 3407 (Admin)

Related Member(s):
Ayesha Christie, David Wolfe QC
Related Practice Area(s):
Public Law
Court:
,

The Sikh Federation has campaigned for the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic group tick box response in the census, in the hope that funding and public services will then be more effectively focused on meeting the needs of the Sikh community.  In this case, they applied for judicial review of “the contemplated exercise of Her Majesty’s discretion to direct a census based on an Order in Council, which does not include a Sikh ethnic tick box”.

Held: The claim is dismissed on the ground that it is premature, and in breach of parliamentary privilege and the constitutional convention of the separation of powers. If the Court were to rule that it would be unlawful for Her Majesty to not include a Sikh ethnic tick box, it would be a clear interference with the Queen in Council’s law-making function, contrary to the constitutional convention of the separation of powers.

There is a fundamental constitutional distinction between the Court reviewing the lawfulness of an Order in Council once it has been made, and the Court making a declaration which curtails the Queen in Council’s exercise of discretion when making law. This is not an exceptional case which justifies any departure from the general rule that this Court will respect the separation of powers and so not interfere with Parliamentary proceedings.

As a consequence of its findings on prematurity and parliamentary privilege, the Court did not the determine the substantive issues in the claim.

Ayesha Christie and David Wolfe QC were involved in this case.