SC says Air Force personnel can’t grow beard on religious grounds
Ansari Aftab Ahmed, who was discharged from service for keeping beard in 2008, demanded equal rights as Sikhs
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the sacking of an Air Force personal for keeping beard, saying the rule did not 'interfere' with freedom of religion.
Dismissing a petition of Ansari Aftab Ahmed, who was discharged from service for keeping beard, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said the rules in the force are aimed at ensuring discipline and uniformity.
After discharged in 2008, Aftab Ahmed had moved the Supreme Court asserting that keeping a beard was his fundamental right to freedom of religion. He also demanded equal rights as Sikhs in the force who were already given permission to sport unshorn hair and turban.
Ansari was sacked from service by IAF in October 2008 while his petition was still pending before the top court. And, in the same year, two more petitions were also filed on the issue by a fellow IAF personnel and a Maharashtra policeman.
Advocate Irshad Hanif asked the apex court to fix a date of final hearing on all petitions filed by the Muslim personnel, who had been discharged from the service or faced disciplinary action over the issue.
However IAF earlier told the Court, in its response on the issue, that all Muslims do not carry beard.
“The practice of growing and keeping beard is optional and sporting a beard is not universally recognised in the religion of Islam. Therefore, it cannot be said that Muslim religion prohibits the cutting of hair or shaving of the face of its member,” it said.
At present, according to the defence ministry’s policy, only those Muslim personnel, who had kept beard along with moustache at the time of commissioning /enrolment prior to 01 Jan 2002, would be allowed to keep beard and moustache.
“Muslims who have grown beard after joining service should shave off the beard. Under no circumstances, a Muslim person who had beard at the time of joining service before 1 Jan 2002 shall be allowed to maintain beard without moustache. Moustache would be a part of the beard,” the rule states.