Ultimatum in first Charity Tribunal case

Appellant given April deadline after postponing case

The appellant in the Charity Tribunal's first case has said he might have to represent himself after the tribunal's president, Alison McKenna, threatened to strike the case out if it is not heard by 23 April.

The case was lodged in May 2008 by Nagendram Seevaratnam, the spiritual leader of Sivayogam, a Hindu temple serving Tamils in south London. He was removed as a trustee by the Charity Commission amid concerns that the charity's income had been misused.

The Charity Tribunal aims to complete all cases within 30 weeks, but the Sivayogam case has been beset with delays because Seevaratnam has struggled to secure affordable legal representation.

The final hearing was due to happen on Monday, but was postponed after Seevaratnam's solicitor, acting on a pro bono basis, withdrew because of a conflict of interest. His barrister, who has been provided by the Chancery Pro Bono Unit, said he could not act without a solicitor to instruct him.

Another solicitor agreed to represent Seevaratnam provided legal aid was available and the case was heard after 1 June. But when Seevaratnam told McKenna of the situation, she said she wanted the case to be over by 23 April, after which Seevaratnam will be unavailable for three weeks because of religious commitments.

A spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office said it never commented on active cases outside official hearings, in the interests of justice.

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