Plea challenging notification allowing Sikhs to carry kirpan on flights dismissed by Delhi HC
The petitioner had argued that the order is bad in law and violates civil aviation safety protocols as well as international conventions.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition challenging a government notification allowing Sikh passengers to carry kirpans on domestic flights, reported Bar and Bench. Kirpan is a curved dagger considered essential to Sikhism.
The public interest litigation, filed by Advocate Harsh Vibhore Singhal, had challenged the Director General of Civil Aviation notification dated March 4. The notification allows Sikhs to carry kirpans in flight, given the length of the blade does not exceed six inches and its total length is not more than nine inches.
During the hearings, a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad had remarked that the decision was a government policy and the court cannot interfere with it unless it is arbitrary, reported PTI.
Singhal had argued that he was not questioning the right to profess and practice a religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
“I admit that Article 25 allows the carriage of a kirpan,” he had said. “But when you are flying, the regulator must apply its mind. I want constitution of a committee of stakeholders to examine the issue. If the committee feels that the notification is good, so be it. Not a problem.”
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security had submitted that safety measures have been put in place.
A detailed court order in the case is awaited.
In his plea, Singhal said that the notification does not state that it applies only to Indian citizens who are Sikh, allowing passengers from other nationality who are also Sikh to carry kirpan as well in domestic routes, reported Live Law.
The petition argued that if the government “obsequiously acquiesces to demands” of carrying kirpan to preserve the religious sanctity of the Sikhs, what happens when the act is barred by other countries.
“Does the faith get desecrated if a kirpan is necessarily packed and carried only in checked in baggage?” it asked. “How does the religious faith get sanctified by carriage on person in flights in India and nevertheless gets sanctified by the carriage in checked-in baggage in other countries?”
The petitioner said that the notification is bad in law and violates civil aviation safety protocols as well as international conventions. It submitted that there have been several instances in the past where kirpans have been used as a weapon to hijack planes. Singhal cited the hijacking of planes in 1981 and 1984.
“That in alacrity to satiate demands of a particular religion, the state cannot disregard need for vigilance by allowing unrestricted and unrestrained on person carriage of kirpans on an unstated but facile and fatuous presumption having no factual basis that carriage does not pose or exacerbate risks to civilian flights,” he added. “Recorded history expresses concerned.”