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Mandla v Dowell Lee

[1983] ICR 385

Case summary last updated at 17/02/2020 16:28 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Mandla v Dowell Lee

P was prevented from going to a private school because the school would not allow him to wear a turban (he was sikh). P claimed indirect discrimination within the RRA 1(1)(b). HL held that Sikhs were a racial group defined by reference to ethnic origins for the purpose of the Act, although they were not biologically distinguishable form the other people of the Punjab, and that the plaintiffs had been discriminated against within the meaning of section 1(1)(b) of the Act. The ‘no turban’ rule was not one with which the plaintiff could comply without becoming a victim of discrimination.
 
Lord Fraser: “The word "can" is used with many shades of meaning. In the context of section 1 (1) (b) (i) of the Act of 1976 it must, in my opinion, have been intended by Parliament to be read not as meaning "can physically," so as to indicate a theoretical possibility, but as meaning "can in practice" or "can consistently with the customs and cultural conditions of the racial group.” NB There was no reference to a comparator or even to non-sikhs whom the no turban rule didn’t detriment. This is because it will be fairly obvious that a considerably smaller proportion of one racial group can comply with a provision than another. There was no need for statistical analysis in this case.

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