Indian Air Force personnel can’t sport beard, says Supreme Court, junks Muslim man’s appeal

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Updated: December 15, 2016 3:48:43 PM

The Supreme Court on Thursday has come out with its view on the much controversial debate on growing beard on religious ground and then sporting it officially in government jobs.

Supreme Court, Beard Controversy, Muslim Community, Indian Armed Forces, Air Force, Air Force personnel having beard, TS ThakurThe Supreme Court on Thursday has come out with its view on the much controversial debate on growing beard on religious ground and then sporting it officially in government jobs. (Source: PTI)

The Supreme Court on Thursday has come out with its view on the much controversial debate on growing beard on religious ground and then sporting it officially in government jobs. The apex court has given a thumbs up to the sacking of any Air Force man who keeps a long beard, terming it as a regulation to ensure discipline and uniformity in the armed forces. Led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, the bench further added that the regulations are not meant to interfere in the religious rights of an individual, but to ensure discipline.

As per a report by The Indian Express, an aircraftsman Ansari Aftab Ahmed, after being terminated from the services for keeping a beard, filed a case seeking equality with Sikh community, who are allowed to wear unshorn hair and turban.

Following the same, two more armed professionals filed petitions on the issue — one by an IAF personnel and another by a Maharashtra policeman.

Justifying its move, the IAF told the court that all Muslims do not have beard and the practice of growing beard is optional. The force also said that sporting a beard is not universally considered in the religion of Islam and hence it cannot be said that cutting of hair or shaving is prohibited in the Muslim religion.

However, then Defence Minister A K Antony had said that the UPA government will not let Muslim personnel suffer and assured on issuing instructions to armed forces seeking not to act against jawans or officers for sporting a beard. But in October 2009, the government told the court that it will take a fresh look at the issue. Two months later, it backtracked from its earlier stand informing the court that the government and the IAF would challenge the petition by Muslim personnel.

Ansari was dismissed from service by the IAF in October, 2008 while his petition was still in que before the court. The court had also issued notices to the government and the IAF in 2008.

The current Defence Ministry policy of ‘hair, beard and wearing turbans’ as notified in 2003, allow only those Muslim personnel to keep beard, who had kept beard along with moustache at the time of joining/ enrolment prior to January 1, 2002. Those who have grown beard after joining service must shave it off.

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