Sikh practices

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Kirpans: Legal issues

Kirpans within court premises

The Times of India, Mar 17 2016

Ajay Sura

Amritdhari Sikhs can appear in court with `kirpan': HC

Upholding the religious freedom of Sikhs to sport a “kirpan“ (ceremonial dagger), the Punjab and Haryana high court held that an Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh cannot be asked to remove this article of faith for a court appearance. The high court passed these orders while quashing an order of Haryana's Ambala sessions court that had on April 18, 2015, declined to record the statement of Dilawar Singh, an Amritdhari Sikh who was a key witness in a murder case in Ambala, on his refusal to remove his “kir pan“.

“The petitioner, being an Amritdhari Sikh, is enjoined by his religion to sport the five articles of faith, one of which is the kirpan.The Constitution explicitly and in the plainest terms secures to the petitioner the right to wear and carry kirpan as being included in the profession of his religion,“ the court said. In the absence of any law or valid regulation prohibiting a “kirpan“ in a court room, the petitioner could not be restrained from wearing and carrying one in the courtroom,“ observed Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu.

Justice Sidhu made it clear that in case there was any apprehension in the mind of the presiding judge about the petitioner behaving violently and causing harm to any person, a measure like stationing security personnel around or close to him could have been resorted to.

In his 34-page judgment, Justice Sidhu also referred constituent assembly discussions that had taken place at the time of its drafting in 1947, where at the at the instance of Sardar Harnam Singh, the right to wear and carry “kirpans“ was recognized as part of the practice of the Sikh religion.

Dilawar had gone to record his statement in a 2014 murder case before the court of Ambala district and sessions judge Deepak Gupta, but the latter objected to his “kirpan“ and directed him to remove it.

In his plea before the HC, the petitioner had argued that orders of Ambala court disallowing him from appearing in a courtroom with a “kirpan“ were illegal and ultra vires to Article 25 of the Constitution and infringed his religion freedom as per the statute.

Kirpans up to 6" on domestic flights 

August 19, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: The Delhi high court refused to stay the permission granted to Sikhs to carry kirpans with blade length up to six inches on domestic flights as it heard a plea challenging the Centre’s clearance to a “certain section of air travellers” disregarding aviation safety.

The public interest litigation (PIL) called for “appropriately designed and crafted” kirpans that do not have a “blade length beyond 4 cm (1. 5 inches)”. 

“No stay,” said a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad while seeking the stand of the Centre and the DGCA on the PIL challenging a March 4, 2022 notification on the issue.

The court asked the government agencies to file their responses to the petition, which seeks the formation of a committee to find “workable solutions” to ensure that kirpans permitted on flights fit the 1. 5-inch specifications.

Kirpans of the kind allowed “can cause havoc in the skies, reducing aviation safety to a nullity”, the plea contended. It added that all conflicting interests must be balanced and religious freedom under Article 25 of the Constitution must “cede precedence to laws and regulations for preserving public safety and property security”.

The petition said allowing kirpans on flights in their presently permissible dimensions has “dangerous ramifications for aviation safety” and “if kirpans are deemed safe only because of religion, one wonders how knitting/ crochet needles, coconuts, screwdrivers, and small pen knives, etc. are deemed hazardous and prohibited”.

The petition contended that “a kirpan remains a blade used in hundreds of homicides with scores of murder cases adjudicated by even the Supreme Court”.

The PIL argued that the permission was “bad in law, mauls civil aviation safety protocols as well as international conventions”, and has been promulgated without application of mind in spite of “historical lessons in aviation hijackings”.

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