Is wearing a turban integral to Sikh religion, asks India’s Supreme Court

The bench is hearing a plea by cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri who is challenging a local cycling association’s rules that requires him to wear a helmet to participate in a competition

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Jagdeep Singh Puri – Photo: Turbanator Facebook page

Is wearing only the turban mandatory under the Sikh religion? The question was raised by the Indian Supreme Court on Friday as they handled a challenge by a Sikh cyclist against a local cycling association’s rules that required him to wear a helmet to participate in a competition.

The court will be back on Monday (23 April 2018) to deliberate on the matter raised by the Delhi-based Jagdeep Singh Puri, a turban wearing cycling enthusiast.

The 50-year old Jagdeep moved the petition with the plea that he cannot wear a helmet because it’s mandatory for him to wear a turban as per the Sikh religion, reported the Hindustan Times.

In another religious-related action, but at the lower courts, October 2017, the Delhi High Court in October 2017 had issued a notice requiring mosques, mandirs and other religious places in Delhi to restrict the decibel level of loudspeakers as well as restricting the height of the loudspeakers at only eight feet from the ground.

The court had asked the Central Government in a plea seeking removal of loudspeakers from religious places on the ground that such practice violates the right to be left alone which is a part of the right to privacy laid down by the Supreme Court.

SEE ALSO: Delhi High Court places restriction on loudspeakers at religious places

The report said a bench of justices SA Bodbe and LN Rao wondered whether wearing a turban was necessary under the religion or just covering one’s head was. They referred to sportspersons from the Sikh community who didn’t wear turbans while participating in games.

“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 a turban?,” the bench told Jagdeep’s counsel RS Suri.

The lawyer told the bench that the Central Motor Vehicle Act grants exemption to Sikhs from wearing helmets while driving a two-wheeler. In several foreign countries such as the UK and US, members of other communities, including Sikhs, have been permitted to wear turbans while playing sports in keeping with their religious beliefs.

The report added that the bench gave the example of Milkha Singh. “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 said.

The report also quoted Justice Bobde as saying said there was no harm in wearing a helmet if it was for one’s safety.

“Why don’t you wear it? Why do you want to risk your head? Here you are undertaking a cycling competition. You can smash your head and then you will allege the organisers are not following safety standards,” the report quoted the judge.

The bench has fixed the next hearing for the petition on Monday (23 April) and asked Suri to get an authority on turbans.

“We want to know whether it’s essential part of your (religious) practice,” the report quoted the bench, noting that the also asked senior advocate CU Singh to assist in the matter.

Jagdeep, a graphic designer by profession, moved the SC after he was disqualified from the Azad Hind Brevet (long distance cycling) organised by Audax India Randonneurs (AIR), after he refused to wear to helmet since he was wearing a turban. 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 report noted.

Jagdeep Singh Puri (4th from left) and fellow Sikh cyclists at India Gate for a Vasakhi cycling event – Photo: Turbanator Facebook page

 

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RELATED STORY:

Aussie Sikh boy wins right to wear turban at Christian school (Asia Samachar, 19 Sept 2017)

Delhi High Court places restriction on loudspeakers at religious place (Asia Samachar, 25 Oct 2017)

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. RECEIVED VIA EMAIL FROM READER GURMUKH SINGH:

    Dear Sir,

    I have read news on your newspaper about the turban or helmet ( Is wearing a turban integral to Sikh religion, asks Supreme Court ) show as somebody one sikh person has gone to supreme court for getting permission for cycling , after reading this news I was surprised when supreme court has asked if turban is mandatory or just covering head is mandatory for the Sikhs and lot of the sikh association all over the world they have come in approach for the right of turban. I have full sympathy and I am with the Sikhs must be allowed to wear turban if they wish so and provided if it is written in their holy scriptures by any guru ji now I request honorable supreme court and all other concerned people please tell all public where it is written in holy scriptures or by any guru ji that one must not where any type of hat or helmet 2. Where it is written that turban must be involved? If we general people know this then we all can be the Sikhs. We have sympathizer of the Sikh community but if we know that it is written by any guru ji and Holy scriptures and where it is written then we can also stand up with the Sikhs is somebody can provide this information then I will be grateful and I think most of the public all should be grateful, happy and they will all support the Sikhs with this type of issue.

    Thanks.

  2. Jasbirji, you may need an ego check by assuming that I have no “clue” about the Dastar or Sikhi and assuming that I may not have read the Gurbani. Perhaps I did not articulate my views well enough but all I seek is that we retain our values and form and yet remain relevant with the ever changing world.

  3. A Sikh means some one who is learning to live life of integrity, dignity and poise. Our Guru Granth Sahib teaches us to be complete in every way. We have to be a Mir and Pir.
    Turban is our crown, long uncut hair a gift of Guru. Sikhs don’t have to prove anything to any worldly judge, only walk in the light of our beloved Guru, pritpal ji if you have no clue about Dastar or Sikhi, then learn from Gurbani , Guru’s own experience and don’t go by what any judge or leader says. Their agenda is to make everyone their slaves with no identity and no self esteem. But a Sikh is unique in every way.

  4. Guru Gobind Singh Ji said that I will give unique identity to my Sikhs by giving Dastar and uncut hair so that they will be recognised among millions.
    This is a gift given by our Guru and it is part of our attire . Without uncut hair and Turban no one can call himself a Sikh.It is as simple as that.

  5. I support the judges views. We can keep our Sikhiand 5 K’s and adapt with times. In Guruji’s era there were no bicycles, motorcycles , airplanes, tanks etc and with growing technology a lot of communication systems are embedded in headgear especially in military use. My humble suggestion is to encourage following the Sikhi values, keep the 5K’s and follow the Rehat Maryadha. If don’t adjust with the times we will be shut out in many professions especially the military where instead of rising to the top echelons we will end up being cooks and clerks. I take pride in seeing our soldiers from the ranks to the Generals and AirMarshalls looking very distinguished when they are in their ceremonial uniforms: turbans and all and would have been in appropriate headgear on combat training and missions. Also our women look gorgeous in dupatas and I am not convinced our Guru’s spouses wore turbans. The SGPC should issue guidelines , through consulting stakeholders, with a view of sour practices staying relevant

  6. In daily life, the turban, besides giving identity, also breaths protection in comparison to an uncovered head. The turban has been self removed numerous times to even save others who are in trouble or need comfort at difficult times.
    However, when the level of danger is heightened like in combat and sports, one can still cover the head in suitable gear instead of the turban. The turban provides one identity, but the name Singh or Kaur itself provides yet another. Simply removing the turban does not mean that all our identity is lost. Virtue and Valor must rise above that.
    Gur Fateh Ji.

  7. The value and significance of TURBAN may have been NULLIFIED by the many Sikhs worldwide including leaders and professionals who themselves on their own and voluntarily CUT THEIR HAIR AND SHAVE THEIR BEARDS thereby the TURBAN has been of little value.
    If the Supreme Court were to ask any average SIKH leader/professional WITHOUT TURBAN to be required give EVIDENCE ON THE TURBAN case then WHAT EVIDENCE WILL THIS TURBANLESS SIKH give?
    Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the Sikhs an IDENTITY which can be RECOGNIZED even if there is ONE IN LACS but without turban even a LAC SIKHS CANNOT BE RECOGNIZED IN ANY CROWD.
    The common reason perceived could be that SUCH SIKH MAY WANT TO BE AT PLACES AND INDULGE IN ACTIVITIES WHICH MAY BE FORBIDDEN IN THE RELIGION and thus DO NOT WANT TO BE RECOGNIZED.

    Gur Fateh

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