Britain’s Supreme Court is reported to be examining whether it should rule on the claims of a Sikh a leader to be a “holy saint” whose followers lay claim to several gurdwaras.

The case has been brought by the followers of Sant Baba Jit Singh Ji Maharaj who was installed as the “Third Holy Saint” and head of the Nirmal Kutia Johal — a Sikh institution named after a village in Jalandhar — in Punjab in 2002. But his legitimacy has been questioned by a rival group which controls gurdwaras in Bradford, Birmingham and High Wycombe.

In May, a court of appeal declined to intervene, ruling that judges should not get involved in doctrinal matters. It said the resolution of such a dispute “depends on the religious beliefs and practices of Sikhs in general and the Nirmal Kutia Sikh institution in particular.”

“The English courts are not equipped to adjudicate on the issue of succession by reference to religious beliefs and practices, either with or without expert evidence,” the court said.

Jit Singh’s followers are seeking the Supreme Court’s permission to challenge the appeal court’s ruling. They claim that broader issues are involved, such as whether the rights and powers held by individuals within religious institutions can be enforced in a British court.

“His succession is a factual issue, not a religious issue. The highest court in India has given a judgment to say that his is the true succession. If the courts decline to look at this it would be saying that they are not interested in the administration of any English charities [with a religious link]. That would be wrong. This could apply to all sorts of other organisations: mosques, synagogues or temples,” Luke Patel of Blacks Solicitors, which represents Jit Singh and his followers, told The Guardian.

The paper said the Supreme Court “confirmed” that it was examining legal submissions to determine whether the case was admissible.

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