A libel action against British journalist Hardeep Singh has today been thrown out of the High Court because it is an argument of religious doctrine rather than establishment of fact, the judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Eady today dismissed a case brought by Jeet Singh, an Indian holy man, against Hardeep Singh for an article published in the UK's Sikh Times that called Jeet Singh "an accused Cult leader".

The Sikh Times had already withdrawn the article and apologised to Jeet Singh.

"Mr Justice Eady ruled that the English courts had no right to jurisdiction on a dispute over religious doctrine, customs or beliefs," says Hardeep Singh's spokesperson, in a release.

"He referred to the 2003 case, Blake v Associated Newspapers, where the judge dismissed the Right Reverend Jonathan Clive Blake’s claim that the publisher of the Daily Mail had questioned the fitness of a person to carry out the duties of their religious office."

The ruling brought a three year legal battle to an end: "The libel action brought against me by Jeet Singh was nothing more than a gross act of intimidation by a wealthy religious imposter whose actions are threatening to divide the British Sikh community and who wanted to use English law to guarantee my silence in this matter," said Hardeep Singh.

"This exhausting battle to clear my name has cost me in excess of £90,000 and yet it took Justice Eady only three hours to throw out the case.

"It seems Jeet Singh hoped I would be forced to back out of the case as the costs mounted which begs the question, should freedom of speech in this country only be available to the rich who have means to defend themselves in court? Ultimately, our libel laws need urgent reform, not only to protect British journalists but also to prevent our laws being abused by foreign nationals."

Padraig Reidy, news editor for Index on Censorship, who attended court today, said: "Mr Justice Eady has reaffirmed an important principle for free expression. Religious disputes cannot and should not be settled in libel courts. Index on Censorship welcomes this decision."

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