SC notice to Centre on no headgear for Sikhs in sports events

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New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Central government on a plea seeking direction to formulate guidelines exempting turbaned Sikhs from wearing any headgear during sports events.

A bench of Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao was hearing the plea filed by Delhi-based cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri, who was allegedly disqualified for a cycling event after he refused to wear a helmet instead of a turban.

Appearing for Puri, senior advocate R.S. Suri told the bench that wearing a turban is an essential part of Sikh religion and Sikh rights have to be protected.

The lawyer contended that even the Motor Vehicles Act exempts Sikhs from wearing a helmet while driving a two-wheeler and the government should frame guidelines not to force Sikhs to wear headgear while participating in sport events.

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The plea mentioned that in several foreign countries such as Britain and the US, members of other communities, including Sikhs, have been permitted to wear turbans while playing sports in keeping with their religious beliefs.

Puri said he was disqualified from the Azad Hind Brevet (long distance cycling) organised by Audax India Randonneurs, after he refused to wear a helmet.

He complained that the rule violated his fundamental right to practise and profess one’s own religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.

The petitioner said he cannot wear a helmet because it’s mandatory for him to wear a turban as per the Sikh religion.

“The petitioner tried to put forward the enlightened view on the significance of the turban to a Sikh; it fell on deaf ears.

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“However, despite being utterly discriminated against, the petitioner still decided to join the ride unofficially, in the spirit of sportsmanship, even if discriminated by the organisers. The petitioner completed the entire event at his own risk without any support from the organisers,” stated the plea.

Seeking protection of his fundamental rights, Puri demanded to issue direction to the government “to enact a law regarding protection of fundamental rights of the persons belonging to the turbaned Sikh community who participate in such social or sports events”.

–IANS

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