The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld sacking of an Air Force man for keeping long beard and said Armed Forces’ regulations are meant to ensure discipline and uniformity.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur added that regulations do not interfere with religious rights of individuals and that they have the sanctity of ensuring discipline. Discharged from service, petitioner Ansari Aftab Ahmed had asserted sporting beard as a facet of his fundamental right to freedom of religion, and seek equality with Sikhs, who are allowed to sport unshorn hair and turban.
Advocate Irshad Hanif urged the court to fix a date of final hearing on a batch of petitions filed by the Muslim personnel, who had either been thrown out of service or faced disciplinary action for sporting beards.
Ansari was discharged from service by IAF in October 2008 while his petition was still pending before the top court. The court had issued notices to the government and the IAF in 2008.
In the same year, two more petitions were filed on the issue — one by a fellow IAF personnel and another by a Maharashtra policeman. In its response, the IAF told the court: “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.”