14th February 2018, Leicester (United Kingdom): On 7th February 2018, the Birmingham High Court ordered the Charity Commission to review a charity proceedings application, which was grossly mishandled by a case manager, who ignored 756 pages of information and evidence, before he wrongly refused the application, on the basis of an irrelevant 33-page document. The applicant, Onkar Thandi, states, “The [Charity] Commission has provided an unacceptable standard of service, which also facilitated the theft of £12,250 from charity funds, and would have allowed the [charity] trustees to escape with seriously breaching their legal duties, if I hadn’t gone to the High Court. The Commission now has two months to sort this mess out, and to restore the public’s faith in its competence as a regulator”.
The Trustees condoned and covered-up racism
Following the Sikh custom of serving ‘Langar’ (free food) to eligible visitors, the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Leicester [UK charity number 254837] runs a ‘free kitchen’ service, which often attracts vulnerable, needy and homeless non-Sikhs. Onkar claims, “Between early 2015 and September 2016, the trustees ignored verbal complaints, a complaint letter, an online petition, a video and four newspaper adverts, about a Temple employee named Joginder Singh, who frequently mistreated non-Sikhs, and refused to serve Langar to eligible non-Sikhs”.
After Onkar publicised the trustees’ wrongdoings, two trustees named Ajmer Basra and Amrik Gill, defamed Onkar on Facebook and in two national newspapers, by falsely identifying him as a member of an anti-Sikh group, which was using the social media to cause problems at the Temple, after which, the trustees further covered-up racism, by using charity money to exploit prominent personalities, blackmail three newspapers and pay for unjustified legal expenses.
The Trustees breached their legal duties
Onkar explains, “Although racism is not unlawful at a place of worship in the UK, it is unacceptable at the Temple, as it contradicts the key Sikh teaching of ‘equality’ and breaches Articles 5(m) and 21 of the Sikh Code of Conduct, and therefore it is against the charity’s key objective, which is to promote the spiritual teachings and principles of the Sikh religion. By condoning and covering-up racism, the trustees acted against the charity’s governing documents, and therefore they seriously breached their legal duties”.
The Charity Commission grossly mishandled Onkar’s application
Onkar states, “On 30th September 2017, I posted a charity proceedings application to the Commission, which consisted of 756 pages of relevant information and supporting evidence. Then, on 17th November 2017, I updated the Commission about my separate defamation claim, against [trustees] Ajmer and Amrik, a copy of which [the 33-page defamation claim] was attached to my email, for the Commission’s records.
On 1st December 2017, I received an email from a [Commission] case manager, who acknowledged the receipt of my 756-page application, and stated, “I am sure you [Onkar] can appreciate, the volume of information [756 pages] provided by you [Onkar] will take some considerable time to review”. However, just two weeks later, on 14th December 2017, the same case manager bizarrely refused consent to charity proceedings, on the basis of the 33-page defamation claim, which he obviously knew, wasn’t the subject of my 756-page application”.
The High Court ruled in Onkar’s favour
On 3rd January 2018, under section 33(5) of the Charities Act 1993, Onkar filed a High Court application against the Commission, for its unjustified refusal of charity proceedings. After the Commission received the notice of hearing, it wrote to the High Court and unreasonably requested, “The Claimant [Onkar] ought to withdraw his [High Court] application...If the Claimant [Onkar] refuses to do so, the Court ought to refuse the [High Court] application”.
Onkar states, “At the High Court hearing, on 7th February 2018, at which I represented myself, upon considering the true facts of the case, the Judge did not refuse my [High Court] application, as the Commission wanted, but instead, she ordered the Commission to review the grossly mishandled application, by 27th April 2018. In my view, the learned Judge has essentially given the Commission two months to remove the trustees, to avoid the need for litigation".
The Charity Commission facilitated the theft of £12,250 from charity funds
Onkar alleges, “In November 2017, I asked the Commission to remove [trustees] Ajmer and Amrik to stop them from using charity money to defend my defamation claim, which is against them in their personal capacities. Recklessly, on 14th December 2017, the Commission refused to remove them, by stating, “You [Onkar] have provided no compelling evidence that would warrant such serious regulatory action at this time”. As a result, Ajmer and Amrik have managed to steal £12,250 from charity funds to date, which is evidenced by an invoice to the charity, from their Barrister, which shows that he has already received £12,250 from charity funds, for defending Ajmer and Amrik, of which, £3,000 was an overpayment.
To make matters worse, on 9th February 2018, I received a letter from Ajmer and Amrik, which estimated that their total cost to defend my defamation claim will be approximately £50,000, which means that they intend to abuse a further £37,750 of charity funds, in the coming months. How can the Commission sit back and watch this daylight robbery? The Commission should immediately remove all of the trustees to safeguard charity funds, and then it should order Ajmer and Amrik to payback the stolen £12,250 [to the charity]”.
The Trustees attempted to steal £10,800.45 from Onkar
Onkar states, “Just five days after the Commission refused my [charity proceedings] application, in order to steal £10,800.45 from me, the trustees sent me a baseless notice and bill [for £10,800.45], which deliberately stated the wrong date, name and address for service of my disputes, to ensure that I would make a procedural error [in responding], which would allow the trustees to request a ‘default costs certificate’, automatically ordering me to pay £10,800.45, without a court hearing taking place.
On 13th January 2018, when I realised what the trustees had done, I disputed the full illegitimate bill of £10,800.45 and confronted the trustees for their shameless contempt of court proceedings. Consequently, on 19th January 2018, I received a letter from Amrik that stated the trustees would no longer be pursuing the claim for £10,800.45, which obviously proves that they were guilty of deception and dishonesty, and desperately wanted to brush the matter under the carpet”.
The Charity Commission is not an effective regulator
Onkar alleges, “By grossly mishandling my [charity proceedings] application, facilitating the theft of £12,250 [from charity funds], and then by failing to remove the trustees after receiving clear evidence of their deception and dishonesty, the Commission has failed to act in accordance with section 15 of the Charities Act 2011, as it has failed to identify, investigate and take protective action, in connection with misconduct and mismanagement, in the administration of the charity in question, which proves that it is not an effective regulator.
If the Commission again refuses to remove the trustees, I will take it to the High Court, where it will have no chance of defending itself, given the overwhelming evidence against the trustees. The Commission must act appropriately and quickly, to restore the public’s faith in its competence as a regulator. Personally, I have no respect for the Commission, and I doubt that it will take this press release seriously”.
Press release distributed by Pressat on behalf of Onkar Singh, on Wednesday 14 February, 2018. For more information subscribe and follow https://pressat.co.uk/