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Supreme Court separates sport from Sikh turban

Categorically separating religion from the game, the bench said that the cycling sport makes helmet mandatory to ensure personal safety.

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Jagdeep Singh Puri
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to make an exception for a Sikh cyclist from wearing a helmet and junked his claim that the rule disrespected his religious practice of wearing a turban. Categorically separating religion from the game, the bench said that the cycling sport makes helmet mandatory to ensure personal safety. However, the court also left open a window as it left it to the Centre to determine whether turbaned Sikhs can — without helmets —take part in cycling events.

The issue was debated on a plea by a Delhi-based cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri, who claimed that wearing a turban is essential for Sikhs, but since wearing a helmet is mandatory to participate, he should be granted an exception.

However, the bench of Justices SA Bobde, SK Kaul and Deepak Gupta felt that the helmet rule had nothing to do with religion. "Why are you thinking some disrespect is being caused to religion? Instead, they are insisting on your safety. Do not bring a religious tone to this matter." Suri also submitted that in the defence services, Sikhs are allowed to wear turbans, equating his disqualification to discrimination.

The bench then remarked, "Do not equate fighting in the Army with a cycle race...You have a choice not to cycle. But by joining the Army, you perform a public duty. You cannot choose not to go to battle. There you have to respect each religion."

Senior advocate CU Singh pointed out that the country has produced great sportsmen who were Sikhs.

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