Indian-origin ‘guru’ loses legal fight to strike out sexual assault allegations case in UK

An Indian-origin “guru”, who presented himself as a head priest of a religious organisation or society in England, has lost a legal battle in the High Court in London to strike out a case worth millions of pounds in damages claimed by former “devotees” over sexual assault and psychological domination allegations.

Rajinder Kalia, 65, was the guru of a registered charity society in Coventry since 1986 and is said to have portrayed himself as something more than a priest-like figure, claiming to be divine with a direct link and ability to speak with God, or manifestations of God allegations he denies.

Seven claimants in the court case alleged that Kalia for many years from 1987 onwards used sermons and teachings, as well as the purported performance of “miracles” to unduly influence their actions.

“There are triable issues to be determined in this case, with many of the factual issues being intertwined and subject to the Claimants’ cases as to the coercive control that the Defendant [Kalia] exercised over them,” Judge Deputy Master Richard Grimshaw said in his judgment in the civil case on Thursday.

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“The trial judge will be best placed to deal with these multifaceted issues but will benefit from a more coherently pleaded and focussed set of claims,” he said.

The judge found that the claimants in the case, all of Indian origin, have a “real prospect” of succeeding with their respective claims.

“By way of example only, there are serious allegations of sexual assault made in this case by four women, three of whom are only connected by their attendance at the Temple and/or being part of that faith community and where two of them describe sexual acts in a similar way.

“It is difficult for me to conclude in the circumstances set out above that there is no real prospect that those Claimants could succeed in their claims for such sexual assaults,” he added.

The court was told that Kalia accepts that he is the head priest, or guru, and founder of the religious society “founded in the principles of Hinduism”, but denies all allegations of wrongdoing and pleads that the claims are “baseless and a thinly veiled attempt to extract money from him”.

“His Defence describes the claims of sexual and physical abuse as ‘fantastical and completely without foundation’,” the judgment notes.Kalia also denies payments were made or that he forced the claimants to perform unpaid labour, in some cases asserting that “donations” of money and work were “freely advanced for the benefit of the religious society”.

The “guru” had applied to strike out the case or seek a summary judgment in August last year on the basis that the particulars of the claim are “vague, unwieldy and fail to identify the issues which the Claimants wish to try”.

The application also claimed that there are allegations that make no sense, with important elements “completely unsupported by expert medical opinion” and “inconsistencies”.

The judgment this week notes that the overall claim is pleaded in excess of 1,665,000 pounds with the full value likely to be well in excess of this figure when “fully particularised and quantified”.

“I accept that this is a difficult case to plead given the fact that there are seven claimants and their claims are different and multifaceted,” the judgment reads, highlighting certain areas of complexity.

The judge ultimately concluded that there may come a time in the future for a fresh strike out and/or summary judgment application by Kalia’s legal team, but it was “premature and unjust” to order it at this stage.

The case is now expected to proceed to a civil hearing.

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