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May 17, 2024

On 20th April 2024, 46 Magistrates and Judges of the Sikh Court were sworn in at the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn at a ceremony officiated by the Honourable Judge Manpreet Singh from Texas, USA.

The Sikh Court will formally open on 1st June 2024 according to the official website, which can be found here. There is currently limited information about the details of the court, so this article has been written with the aim of bringing awareness to the Sikh Court and the shift in the Family Court towards arbitration. Practitioners are encouraged to keep up to date with the Sikh Court initiatives via their website.

What is The Sikh Court?

The Sikh Court is a means of alternative dispute resolution created by Sikh and non-Sikh lawyers. It uses mediation and arbitration to allow the Sikh Community in England and Wales to resolve civil and family disputes. This court is likely to be used for disputes relating to separation, finances and children. The parties can agree to use the Court for mediation where they hopefully come to an arrangement by consent or can agree to be bound by a decision using arbitration. Either way, agreement to use the Sikh Court is key.

It is important to note that the Sikh Court will not be operating under its own legal framework – it will operate within the jurisdiction of England and Wales and decisions will be made in accordance with the Children Act 1989, Arbitration Act 1996 and other prominent statutes in England and Wales. In the case of significant safeguarding issues, the Sikh Court will operate in the same way that the Family Courts do, in that the case would not be deemed to be appropriate for mediation or negotiation, and the matter would be referred to the relevant court and agencies.

The purpose of the Sikh Court seems to be twofold: 1) to take the pressure off the saturated lists and overworked staff and judiciary in the Civil and Family Courts, and 2) to offer the Sikh community a forum that is rooted in religious and cultural sensitivity and experience. Alongside being rooted in Sikh principles, the Sikh Court has the added benefit that the judges speak Punjabi, which is likely to engage more people from the community.

In addition to assisting parties to negotiate and find resolutions, it is understood that the Sikh Court will also be directing parties to behavioural and educational courses. These courses have been developed with Sikh charities to cover low-level domestic abuse, anger management, gambling and substance misuse and are available in both Punjabi and English.

Lastly, by engaging in mediation or arbitration within the Sikh Court, the parties are likely to incur fewer costs as there will be little need for an expert on Sikh matters to be instructed and because ‘med-arb’ processes are much swifter than court proceedings.

Changes to the Family Procedure Rules generally

There has been a shift in the Family Court’s focus as far as alternative dispute resolution is concerned. On April 29th 2024, The Family Procedure (Amendment No. 2) Rules 2023 came into force.

The amendment expands the definition of “non-court dispute resolution” (NCDR) to:

““non-court dispute resolution” means methods of resolving a dispute other than through the court process, including but not limited to mediation, arbitration, evaluation by a neutral third party (such as a private Financial Dispute Resolution process) and collaborative law;”.

Subsection 1A is inserted into Rule 3.3 (the court’s duty to consider non-court dispute resolution) as follows:

“(1A) When the court requires, a party must file with the court and serve on all other parties, in the time period specified by the court, a form setting out their views on using non-court dispute resolution as a means of resolving the matters raised in the proceedings.”

This means that parties within court proceedings need to be prepared to explain to the court whether they are willing to engage with NCDR and if not, why that is. Furthermore, the court will be able to adjourn proceedings where ‘the timetabling of proceedings allows sufficient time for these steps to be taken’ to encourage parties to undertake non-court dispute resolution; the parties’ consent to such an adjournment is no longer required.

This is particularly important because of the potential implication on costs orders if a party refuses to engage in non-court dispute resolution, especially after an adjournment to allow the parties time to try mediation or arbitration.


It is clear that there is a clear agenda on the part of the Ministry of Justice to divert parties away from the Family Court in suitable cases. To this end, the Sikh Court has arrived at an opportune time. NCDR should now be considered by all parties before they engage in lengthy, costly and stressful court proceedings.

If you are interested in pursuing non-court dispute resolution in your own matters, please consider Charles Hyde KC (finance) or Sarah Pope (children), both of whom are ILFA qualified arbitrators.

Simran Kamal

May 2024