Sikhs in Court Over Protests of Behzti Play in 2004

July 14, 2006

Source: Sikh Sangat News

On July 14, 2006 Sikh Sangat News reported, "The use of anti-social behaviour laws to break up a protest by Sikhs over a play was unlawful, the Court of Appeal has been told. Pritpal Singh, from Coventry, was arrested after failing to leave the demonstration over the play Behzti, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, in 2004.

His lawyer said the case raised important and fundamental points over the right to lawful protest.

Gurpreet Bhatti (pictured) who authored the play which depicted acts of rape and violence in a Sikh temple.

The Behzti play caused uproar in the British Sikh community. The play sparked several days of non-stop peaceful protests in which literature was distributed about the Sikh religion and Sikhs allege some of the misinformation by the play was corrected.

Monica Carss-Frisk QC, representing Mr Singh, said the intentions of her client and others with him, were entirely peaceful.

Mr Singh was cautioned after being arrested for failing to leave the scene. The only violence was when one protester kicked a plastic bin and another set off a fire extinguisher, the court was told.

'Nothing came close to violence,' she said.

Miss Carss-Frisk said the section of the Anti Social Behaviour Act used by the police to disperse protesters did not apply to lawful protest.

It had been invoked by the police and authorised solely for dealing with 'seasonal revellers' and could not be lawfully used for other purposes, she added."