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SC notice to Centre on plea seeking to exempt Sikhs from wearing helmets during sport events

July 07, 2018 05:28 AM


SC notice to Centre on plea seeking to exempt Sikhs from wearing helmets during sport events
Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 6

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a petition seeking formulation of guidelines to exempt turbaned Sikhs from wearing any headgear during sports events.

A Bench headed by Justice SA Bodbe asked the Centre to respond in four weeks to the petition by Jagdeep Singh Puri after senior counsel RS Suri submitted on his behalf that wearing turban was integral to Sikhism and religious rights of Sikhs guaranteed under the Constitution have to be protected.
The petitioner—a 50-year-old graphic designer from Delhi—had approached the top court after being disqualified in 2015 from the Azad Hind Brevet—a long distance cycling event organised by Audax India Randonneurs—as he refused to wear to helmet on the ground that being a Sikh he was wearing a turban.
The rule violated Article 25 of the Constitution which guaranteed fundamental right to everyone to practise and profess one’s own religion, he contended.
Even the Motor Vehicle Act exempted Sikhs from wearing helmet and the government should frame guidelines in the regard, his senior counsel submitted. The Bench was also told about a Canadian law that allows Sikhs not to wear helmets.
During hearing on the issue in April, the Bench had wondered if wearing turban was mandatory for Sikhs or only covering one’s head was required.
“We have sympathy for the cause. But have you showed us anything that makes it mandatory under Sikh religion to wear a turban only? For example Bishen Singh Bedi played cricket while simply covering his head. He never wore a turban. And what do soldiers do in battles? Don’t they wear helmets? You basically need to define what is turban?” it had asked the petitioner. It had asked senior advocate CU Singh to assist it in the matter.
“Great sportspersons have never worn a turban. It seems to us that wearing a turban is not mandatory but covering your head is,” the Bench had noted, advising the petitioner that there was no harm in wearing helmet for one’s safety.
On Friday, CU Singh submitted a brief note to the court and pointed out that the Motor Vehicle Act (MV) exempted Sikhs from wearing helmet while riding a bike.
The petitioner submitted that despite being discriminated against by the organisers, he joined the ride unofficially in the spirit of sportsmanship and completed the ride at his own risk without any support from the organizers.
The Bench gave liberty to Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee, a voluntary group called United Sikh Organisation and one Amrit Pal Singh Khalsa to assist it even as it turned down their formal intervention applications

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