IAF men can’t sport beard, no intention to discriminate: SC

IAF men can't sport beard, no intention to discriminate: SC
IAF men can’t sport beard, no intention to discriminate: SC

IAF personnel cannot sport a beard on religious grounds, the Supreme Court today said making it clear that policies on personal appearance are “not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs” but to “ensure uniformity and discipline” which are indispensable to every armed force.

The apex court observed that for the effective functioning of a large combat force, the members must bond together by a sense of espirit-de-corps, “without distinctions of caste, creed, colour or religion” and while on duty, every member of the Indian Air Force is required to wear uniform and not display any sign distinguishing one from another.

“Regulations and policies in regard to personal appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs nor do they have the effect of doing so. Their object and purpose is to ensure uniformity, cohesiveness, discipline and order which are indispensable to the air force, as indeed to every armed force of the Union,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said while dismissing appeals of two Muslim personnel of IAF.

Airmen Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed had challenged dismissal of their plea by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in which they had sought setting aside of the air force order directing them to shave off their beard.

By an August 26, 2005 communication, the personnel were informed that under the current policy of the air force dated February 24, 2003 and July 9, 2003 an airman was not permitted to have a beard on religious grounds.

The bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said there was no merit in the appeals as they were unable to show that their case falls within the ambit of Regulation 425(b) which says “personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of the hair or shaving of the face of its members will be permitted to grow hair or retain beard”.

“In the circumstances, the commanding officer was acting within his jurisdiction in the interest of maintaining discipline of the air force. The appellant having been enrolled as a member of the air force was necessarily required to abide by the discipline of the force,” the court said.

( Source – PTI )

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