Centre exempts Sikh women from wearing helmets

CHANDIGARH: Sikh women will be allowed to ride two-wheelers without helmets in Chandigarh, the Union home ministry has said.

The UT administration was on Thursday “advised” by the home ministry to follow the notification issued by the Delhi Government exempting Sikh women from wearing protective headgear (helmet) while driving two-wheelers, a press release by the Centre said.

The Department of Transport, Delhi Government, in a June 4, 1999, notification had amended Rule 115 of the Delhi Motor Vehicle Act 1993, making it optional for women “whether riding on pillion or driving motorcycle to wear a protective headgear.”

The rule was further amended through another notification dated August 28, 2014, whereby the word “women” was replaced by “Sikh women”.

Badals met home minister

Thursday’s decision followed a meeting between home minister Rajnath Singh with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders led by former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and party president Sukhbir Badal.

On April 21 this year, following Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) directions, the UT administration had proposed that all women, except for turbaned Sikhs, wearhelmets. Asking for an amendment in Rule 193 of the Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1990, the UT had invited objections and suggestions from the public.

HC had in December 2017 initiated suo motu proceedings on increasing road fatalities involving two-wheeler women riders, asking the administration to consider measures to prevent such mishaps.

About 24 women in three years have lost their lives and 85 injured in two-wheeler accidents on Chandigarh roads.

The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, mandates headgear for everyone riding two-wheelers, but permits state governments to make relaxations in some categories. It was under this rule that the UT had earlier exempted all women from wearing helmets whereas Punjab and Haryana have excluded only Sikh women.

In a press release on Thursday, Badal Senior said the SAD delegation had told Rajnath Singh during the meeting in Delhi that the notification was against the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment (SC) on the issue and was also against the Sikh Rehat Maryada (code of conduct).

Not an issue

This is not a new issue. An HC ruling in 1998 to restrict the exemption only to “Sikhs wearing turban while driving” had been resisted by Sikh bodies and Chandigarh had witnessed protests. Sikh bodies had argued that their tenets forbade the wearing of any cap. In 2004, the SC too ruled that the state had powers to relax rules in a particular area. Following this, Chandigarh relaxed the norms and exempted all women from wearing helmets.

UT administrator VP Singh Badnore had also in July refused to accept the Akali demand to exempt non-turbaned Sikh women from wearing helmets. After SAD local unit president Hardeep Singh Buterla with representatives of other Sikh organisations met Badnore to demand withdrawal of the UT administration’s notification, he suggested they should move court if they wanted.

Reassurance on danips decision

SAD on Thursdsay also took up with Rajnath Singh the matter of filling up 50% posts in DANIPS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Island, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli ) police cadre through direct recruitment at entry level. It was in gross violation of the letter and spirit of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, which stipulated that employees of Chandigarh administration will be taken on deputation from Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40, the SAD press release said.

Rajnath Singh, Badal said, had asked the Union home secretary to review the decision and reassured the SAD delegation that injustice would not be done to Punjab.

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