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Turbaned Sportsmen Can't Compare Themselves With Sikh Soldiers: SC

A bench headed by Justice SA Bobde refused to interfere with an alleged disqualification of Delhi-based cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri from a cycling event after he refused to wear a helmet instead of a turban.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:February 19, 2019, 2:58 PM IST
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Turbaned Sportsmen Can't Compare Themselves With Sikh Soldiers: SC
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that a turbanned Sikh wanting to participate in sporting events without a helmet cannot compare himself with a Sikh soldier, who has a "duty to serve the nation".

A bench headed by Justice SA Bobde refused to interfere with an alleged disqualification of Delhi-based cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri from a cycling event after he refused to wear a helmet instead of a turban.

Appearing for Puri, senior advocate RS Suri sought to draw a parallel with soldiers in Indian armed forces, contending that if Army can allow a Sikh with a turban, why should organisers of sporting events object.

But the bench was unimpressed with Suri's submission.

"How can you compare the two? You can't compare those in Army with those who want to race. In the Army, you have a duty to serve the nation. There can't be discrimination. You can't join the Army and say I won't go to war. But you can buy a cycle and choose not to race," responded the bench.

It added that anybody who wants to participate in a competitive event cannot cite a Sikh in Army since the latter has joined forces with a bounden duty where the only purpose is to serve.

"But here, we don't see this as a matter of discrimination or even interference with your religious rights. It is not completely about faith or duty," observed the court.

The bench said it cannot direct the Central government or other organisers to tweak their rules and allow Sikhs to participate without helmets or other protective gear if they wear turbans.

The Court asked Puri and the apex Sikh-body SGPC to submit their representations with the government, which it said, would consider the request and decide in accordance with the rules and the laws.

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

Puri approached the apex court last year, seeking direction for the Centre to formulate guidelines exempting turbaned Sikhs from wearing any headgear during sports events.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which has also filed an intervening application in the case, said that the Sikh had fought in World War II and contributed in country's independence as well and "if Sikhs are not allowed to wear turbans, what would be our identity"?

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