The Supreme Court on Thursday granted reprieve to a Muslim policeman who has remained suspended from work for the last five years for refusing to shave his beard. While the apex court agreed to let him keep his beard during religiously significant periods only, the constable rejected the offer.
Zahiroddin Shamsoddin Bedade, who was appointed as a constable in the State Reserve Police Force, had applied for and was granted permission to grow his beard in 2012.
However, his permission was revoked in keeping with the new amendments made to the Maharashtra State Reserve Police Force's policy. Bedade refused to shave his beard and was suspended from duty, reported the Times of India.
Since his suspension, Bedade has been fighting for the right to keep his beard on grounds of religious freedom, but to no avail.
The SC bench, headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, maintained that Bedade's plea did not fall within the purview of Regulation 425 (b), which applies to personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting or shaving of hair for its members.
Bar & Bench quotes Regulation 425 (b):
"Only those Muslim personnel who had kept beard along with moustache at the time of commissioning or enrolment prior to 1 Jan 2002, would be allowed to keep beard and moustache. Such personnel are to maintain it in a manner that it is neat, trimmed and tidy and not more than the length which could be covered by one fist. 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 SC told Bedade that they were sorry about his suspension and said that he could be reinstated if he agreed to grow his beard only during religiously significant periods.
The SC bench said:
"We really feel bad for you. You should not remain out of work. If you wish, what we can do is to allow you to join back as constable if you undertake to keep a beard only during religious periods and not otherwise. It is your choice."
When Bedade refused, they said, "Then we cannot help you."
Last year, when a Muslim Indian Air Force official began growing a beard, a Supreme Court bench had ruled that unless keeping a beard was an integral part of one's religion — such as in the Sikh community — no personnel could be allowed to grow a beard.
According to The Daily Mail, the SC had said:
"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."
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