A Sikh is Judged

Sat Jivan Singh’s first trial shows
the power of the Khalsa projection

It was 1975, my very first trial, and there I sat, sweating bullets in the chambers of the Administrative Judge of the Court, trying to understand what grievous blunder I had made to provoke him into calling me here alone, without the District Attorney. During a trial, Judges never ask for a meeting with just one attorney. It isn’t done. Proper decorum demands both counsel be present in every meeting with the Judge. There was only one exception: when counsel was being reprimanded.

So it was clear to me that in the exuberance of my first trial I had crossed some line. I must have done something so wrong it meant I should be disciplined. The thought of being disbarred flashed into my brain and the sweat poured faster. All that time and money for law school not to mention my first trial and client down the tubes.

It was a first in more ways than one, however. I am a Sikh: I have a beard and wear a white turban. And at the time I wasn’t just a Sikh, I was the Sikh. I was the first and only Sikh ever admitted to the Bar in New York! No one would forget me. If I was going to be remembered I wanted to be remembered well. So I prepared.

I don’t think anyone ever prepared a case like I had prepared this one and as a student of Kundalini Yoga, I also practiced meditative techniques to be calm and relaxed for trial. I was ready. As far as I was concerned, it was the trial of the century. Forget about the Lindbergh kidnapping or the O.J. murder trials. In my mind it couldn’t get any bigger than this, even if it was only a shoplifting case. It was my case and my client deserved the best defense possible.

When the trial began I could hardly contain myself. As the prosecutor began his case I was continuously on my feet: "Objection: Hearsay!" "Objection: Counsel is leading the witness!" The DA. wasn’t going to get anything past me. I was up at every perceived infraction of the evidentiary rules. I was feeling great and I thought I was doing great, too. I just knew my client was going to be found "Not Guilty."

Then it happened. Mid-trial, the Judge said, "Let’s take a recess. Mr. Khalsa, I want to see you in my chambers."

It took me a moment to grasp the gravity of this request. He didn’t want the District Attorney; just me. The walk to his chambers seemed like miles. He opened the door, motioned for me to sit down and then seated himself behind the biggest desk I had ever seen. He sat silent for what seemed like an eternity, sizing me up; obviously preparing to deliver the crushing blow, telling me how badly I had blown it for my client and what punishment I was facing. He leaned forward and looked intently at me.

"Mr. Khalsa," he said with the utmost seriousness, "Can you help me relax?"

Sat Jivan Singh Khalsa was the first Sikh attorney in the state of New York. He is a Sikh Minister and works with Amar Infinity Foundation, Kundalini Research Institute, and the Khalsa Council. He is the founder and President of the Sikh Lawyers Bar Association and a member o f the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.

This article is from the winter 2005 issue of Aquarian Times Magazine

17 Responses to “A Sikh is Judged”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A funny story. I have met Satjivan Singhji in NY and he is a wonderful man.

  2. Manjit Singh says:


    Some of these stories you post are really funny! About Yogi Bhajan’s comments on purpose of bride walking behind the groom, and this one about the trial. Great Job. It was nice to see you again at the Gurudwara with my kids during KYC. Also, another request, is there a way to publish a good punjabi to english dictionary on line. I am not a software expert, but if everyone on the internet pitches in a few punjabi words in punjabi font with their meaning and submit it to some one like yourself that can compile them into a big datbase of some sort. It would really help Sikhs and non-sikhs alike to learn and translate Punjabi. I kind of started in a MS word document and am adding a few words at a time but I thought it would be faster if people online add the words to the dictionary like you have done for SikhiWiki. There are a lot of English to Punjbi dictionaries but not very many Punjabi to English ones. Again you are doing a great work on this website by bringing the community together.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Manjit Singh. We should work on publishing a good Punjabi to English dictionary online. Anybody has any thoughts on this issue.
    Mr. Sikhnet what do you think about this idea.
    Again doing good job for sikh community

  4. It's a great project…but someone else would have to take the lead on it. We just don't don't currently have the manpower and time to start this type of project. We are running with a skeleton staff and are hardly able to keep up with what we have.

    If we could get some funding which would allow us to hire more people that would make it possible.

  5. isingh says:

    I would like to work on this. I actually wouldn’t mind taking a lead on this either. My qualifications are: I can read, write, speak punjabi fairly well (at the very least at the 7th grade level of punjab). Web app developer for 8 years, Database Administrator for MS SQL Server(4 years) and know enough to work on Oracle (4 years). Can code in any language and am dying to work on something useful (for the Sikh community).

    Currently writing requirements for a punjabi software that’ll teach how to write in punjabi (with the help of my mom who was a punjabi teacher.) I just started a couple of days ago on this when I found out that I wouldn’t have to do this all by myself and could actually depend on a company oversees that my friend’s been using. And adding the dictionary tool would be as easy as oorra, arra, eerree!

    If you guys would like to help me write requirements that’ll be awesome. But we need a virtual workspace…how about Sikhnet chat and all the documents that we’ll be collaborating on i think the easiest thing would be to get a gmail account that all of us have access to…but we can work out all that later.

    and of course the software will be donated to sikhnet (if they like what they see)…

    Manjit Singh ji, could you send me your word doc…

    thank you and i only meant to sound enthusiastic about this and sorry if i sounded like anything other than that.

    [email protected]

  6. Turbo says:

    isingh said “….the dictionary tool would be as easy as oorra, arra, eerree!”

    Quick Gurumustuk Singh Ji, get isingh ji to sign on the dotted line before he changes his mind! Sounds like he’s a whizzkid on the computer.

    I’m not sure, but this link might be worth checking out:



  7. isingh says:

    thanks turbo, but you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet :). and plus i haven’t done it yet…we shall see…
    “lakh khushian patshaian…”

    i’m not a whizkid but i just did a 1.5 million words and phrases dictionary for faa(federal aviation administration) codes from scratch (word documents and hard copy et all) with all sorts hierarchy and relationships in db. that’s why it’s as easy as urra erra erree! :) because the concept is very similar (even if it’s another language).

    but sikhnet does need help though…also, i think people who donate should elect to have their names “posted”…it is inspiring…that list is way too short!

    also, if we wanted to donate air line tickets and NEW computer parts (like a 3 gig processor and 1 gig ram) how would that work as far as the whole tax deductions go…i’m only asking this in “public” because some people might want to do this…


  8. Anonymous says:

    we all should think seriously about this idea. I think finally we can use positive energy here. I mean instead of discussing some meaningless topics.
    I think it is a very good idea.
    I usually never post comment on this blog. However, I think the dictionary idea is worth consdering. We can probably raise funds through Gurdhwara
    After all effort is about knowledge.


  9. Manjit Singh says:


    This is just great!! I am really glad that somebody is willing to take the lead and have the expertise to do this enormous but much needed task. The file I have is very much in its infancy and does not have much, but I will gladly send what I have to you. I am going to keep adding whenever I have time. Actually, I was going to ask each of my kid to see if they could help me with it. Like finding 10 OORA words from newspaper , then ARA and so on every month. Thank you again for stepping up to the challenge! Thanks to Gurmustak for starting this blog and allowing the opportunity to bring good ideas.

  10. isingh, it is quite common for people to donate hard goods like computers and other “non cash” items.

    SikhNet is a not for profit (501.3c) Charitable organization. Which in laymans terms means we’re not out there to make money and donations that you make to the organization are tax deductable.

    We could definitely use the support from the community. If you are interested in supporting SikhNet in some way you can contact us.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I have a general question. Is it possible that we can use Matha Takehna ( money from Gurdhwara) for this purpose. Few months ago I was thinking about donating money from such fund for AIDS charity in Africa. Here in our local community we are trying to collect funds to build gurdhwara one day. I don’t know if we will ever get there. It is a very small community. we can use this money to publish a good punjabi to english dictionary.
    Anybody has any more ideas about fundraising?
    Let us brainstrom ideas about funds?
    Let us get atleast 5 people in charge of coming up with a plan on how we go about this dictionary project?
    Keep up the dicussion on this subject.
    Surely it will lead us somewhere.


  12. Manjit Singh says:

    I would think 5 people should be form a not-for profit organization to work on this and other good projects or may be they can donate funds to Sikhnet which is already established so it can utilize skills of isingh to do the same thing. I am not sure if money from Gurudwara can be used, since that was collected for that purpose and probably would set well with people who donated it for that cause unless their permission is obtained.

  13. isingh says:

    i don’t need funding for this. i’m doing it pro bono/free. but please support sikhnet. i feel kinda bad that i’m singling out sikhnet but i feel we as sikhs should have “one stop shop” and they’ve done a good job (best job along with http://www.sgpc.net).

    anyways i’m working on the dictionary as i type (not really but you know what i mean), i’m almost done with my database schema. i have a lot of technical resources at my disposal as well if i need additional help. i don’t need any money/funding for this all i need is your support and prayers.

    you will be the ones populating it. i’ll start off with about 1 to 2 thousand words and go from there.

    i’ll start a blog for this i guess…


  14. Anonymous says:

    I think blog about dictionary project is really a good idea.


  15. isingh says:

    blog’s address’s been changhed to


  16. Manjit says:


    I tried to sign in to obtain a username and password for your blog, but it won’t accept any of my usernames. I tried three different ones, but no luck. Am I doing something wrong. Also, is there a way to just have it optional like Gurmustak has done. After a while, I tend to forget all my passwords.

  17. isingh says:

    sorry about that. i didn’t know i had to change the settings to allow ann. comments. you should be fine now.

    it’s the “gurmukhi” blog not the “5abidictionary” one…i’m going to delete that one now.