Bench issues notice to Centre, Maharashtra

The Supreme Court will examine whether a Muslim policeman can sport a beard in violation of service rules.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar on Tuesday issued notice to the Maharashtra government on a special leave petition filed by Zahiroddin and staying the disciplinary proceedings against him, upheld by the Bombay High Court.

The Bench also issued notice to the Centre and the Commandant of the State Reserve Police, Maharashtra, returnable in four weeks.

According to Mr. Zahiroddin, he sought permission from the Commandant to sport a beard as per his religious faith and he was allowed to do so. However, subsequently, permission was cancelled in view of the amended service guidelines issued by the Home Ministry but he was not heard. His writ petition challenging the Commandant’s order was rejected by the High Court.

In his SLP, Mr. Zahiroddin raised important questions of law: can Sikhs in the force be allowed to have a beard and wear a turban, features which distinguish them from followers of other religions and did the Commandant’s order violate Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution? Did the order cancelling permission violate his right under Article 25 (right to profess, practise and propagate one’s religion)? Has the High Court failed to appreciate that keeping a beard is obligatory for every man following Islam and that it is sinful not to do so as the Koran ordains him to sport a beard?

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