Former gang leader Sanghera gets human rights hearing over confiscation of turban by jailers

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that a high-profile former accused who claimed his rights were violated when his Sikh turban was confiscated by prison authorities will get a human rights hearing, according to a report in The Province.

Udham Singh Sanghera was alleged by police to have been the patriarch of a crime group operating out of Vancouver’s South Slope.

He was arrested and charged with firearms offences and went to trial in 2011.

But in a surprise move, the Crown stayed the charges against Sanghera, who had spent two years in prison at that point.

In October 2011, Sanghera filed a human rights complaint alleging that employees of the Corrections Branch had confiscated his Sikh turban when he was taken into custody, thus preventing him from fulfilling a religious requirement, and offered in its place a handkerchief.

He also complained that when he was required to appear in court, sheriffs confiscated a makeshift turban he was wearing and forced him to appear in court with only a handkerchief on his head.

In addition, Sanghera claimed that at both North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre and B.C. Supreme Court, sheriffs laughed at his embarrassment and humiliation.

In November 2012, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the allegations he’d been laughed at as being too vague, but allowed the allegation that his turban was seized and he’d been forced to wear a handkerchief to proceed to a hearing.

The B.C. government sought a judicial review of that decision, claiming that Sanghera had failed to provide enough information about the particulars of the complaint.

But on Wednesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Skolrood found that it was open to the tribunal to find that the “totality” of the information provided by or on behalf of Sanghera established a basis for the hearing to go ahead.

“In my view the Crown has sufficient information to allow it to properly respond to the complaint and would not be unfairly prejudiced by the complaint proceeding on the basis forwarded by the tribunal.”

The tribunal’s decision noted that a new policy by the B.C. Sheriff Services permits turbaned Sikhs to wear their turbans while in custody.