Police must have a secular image: Allahabad HC dismisses a plea by a police officer to keep a beard

The Allahabad High Court rejected a plea by a police officer from Uttar Pradesh stating that he had a fundamental right to keep a beard

Allahabad High Court
Allahabad High Court

NH Web Desk

The Allahabad High Court rejected a plea by a police officer from Uttar Pradesh stating that he had a fundamental right to keep a beard.

Mohammed Farman, the petitioner, had filed two petitions. First petition challenged an October, 2020 circular issued by the Director General of Police, UP which had issued guidelines for the wearing a proper uniform and to maintain a proper appearance for members of the force.

The second one had challenged a suspension order issued against Farman by the Deputy Inspector General of the Ayodhya police on November 5, 2020. The order was issued alongside a request for a departmental inquiry and pulled up Farman for maintaining a beard despite being a member of a ‘disciplined force’, reported The Wire.

He also challenged a charge-sheet filed by the District Superintendent of Police (Rural Area) of Ayodhya against him on July 29, 2021.

According to a report in The Wire, advocate Amit Bose on behalf of Farman argued that the October, 2020 circular violated the petitioner’s rights under Article 25 of the constitution. Article 25 pertains to the freedom of conscience, the freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion to all citizens.

Amit Bose referred to the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Bijoe Emmanuel and others vs. State of Kerala where the apex court defended the complainant’s right of refusal to sing the National Anthem due to their religious beliefs.

The single-judge bench of Justice Rajesh Singh Chauhan that, with regards to the case in question, Article 25 does not confer an absolute right, noting that “all the rights have to be viewed in the context and letter and spirit in which they have framed under the Constitution”, reported Bar and Bench.

The court also referred to the case of Mohammed Zubair Corporal No. 781467-G vs. Union of India and others where the litigant was unable to establish any specific mandate in Islam which prohibits the cutting or shaving of facial hair, reported by Live Law.

It is also important to mention that Allahabad high court maintained that the police force is necessitated to have a “secular image” in order to “strengthen the countenance of national integration.

Amit Bose had also argued that Farman’s refusal to cut his beard does not amount to misconduct and that no charge-sheet should have been filed. However, the court found that Farman’s actions – being in violation of a direction issued by higher officials – were not only wrong, but also amounted to “misdemeanour, misdeed and delinquency of the petitioner,” reported The Wire.

The High Court also noted that the maintenance of physical appearance is one of the foremost requirements of members of a disciplined force and directed the inquiry officer to conduct the departmental inquiry, preferable within three months.

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