Cop moves HC to grow beard

A civil police officer in Kochi belonging to the Muslim community has challenged the State Police Chief’s refusal to allow him to grow a beard as part of his religious belief.

The Kerala High Court on Monday admitted a writ petition filed by K. Riyas, who is posted at the Armed Reserve Camp at Ernakulam, and issued notice to the State government and the State Police Chief.

According to Mr. Riyas, he was earlier permitted to grow a beard during the holy month of Ramzan in 2012 at his request. Later in 2013, he sought permission from the Assistant Commandant of Police (Adjutant) to keep a permanent beard but the latter asked him to approach the State government as it was a religious issue.

In his representation to the State government, the petitioner maintained that Indian Air Force and Indian Navy personnel were allowed to grow beard on religious and medical grounds and, therefore, the government should allow him to sport a beard permanently.

The government forwarded his representation to the State Police Chief, who informed the petitioner that the request could not be considered as the police manual did not allow police officers to grow a beard.

But Mr. Riyas contended that the police manual did not have any provision banning the growing of a beard, either. Nor were there any statutes or service rules or government orders prohibiting State police personnel from growing a beard, his petition said, contending that the action of the State Police Chief amounted to denial of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including the right to practise one’s religion.

He argued that when Sikhs working in police, military, and paramilitary force were allowed to grow their hair and beard for religious reasons, there was no reason as to why the same privilege could not be extended to a Muslim.

Especially when Article 25 of the Constitution declared that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise, and propagate religion”, the petition said, seeking the court to declare that he was entitled to sport a beard, keeping it trimmed and tidy.

Incidentally, the service of a Muslim jawan who insisted on growing a beard on religious grounds, despite orders to remove it, was terminated by the Army and termed ‘an undesirable soldier’. His dismissal was upheld by the Kochi Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) recently.

The Army allows non-Sikhs to sport a temporary beard, especially in certain regiments. The Air Force does not allow display of religious symbols on duty or at parades but Muslims who sported a beard at the time of their enrolment before January 1, 2002, can keep it.

The Navy allows its personnel to change their appearance but with the Commanding Officer’s mandatory permission. However, beards are allowed on medical grounds, with exemption from these rules.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:08:49 PM |

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