The Supreme Court response to a turban related case of whether the turban is mandatory for Sikhs has caused an outrage among the Sikh community.
The SGPC has termed the question of the Supreme Court as “unfortunate” according to the Hindustan Times.
Hindustan Times reported reactions on the response from the Sikh groups:
SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said: “It is unfair to force Sikh players to wear helmet in place of turban which is integral part of the Sikh religion.”
“During both World Wars, Sikh soldiers fought wearing turbans. In the history of free India, there has been a turbaned president and prime minister. In foreign countries, turbaned Sikhs have got key positions in governments,” he said in a statement here.
Shiromani Akali Dal (Delhi) chief Paramjit Singh Sarna said: “What right does the Supreme Court or as a matter of fact anyone has to put a question mark on the proud symbol of Sikh identity?”
Advocate Jaswinder Singh, president of Akal Purakh Ki Fauj, said: “Judges’ comments are very disheartening. They are citing the example of Milkha Singh and Bishan Singh Bedi for not wearing turban to encourage Sikhs to sport patkas. They need to understand the sentiments of community while addressing any religious issue.”
The Supreme Court of India has asked whether the turban is actually required under the religion or if the simple head covering is enough.
The Supreme Court is reviewing a case after cyclist Jagdeep Singh Puri filed a petition after being required to wear a helmet under a local cycling association’s rule changes.
Jagdeep stated that he can’t wear a helmet because under his religion it’s mandatory for him to wear a turban.
The justices on the bench SA Bodhe and LN Rao were curious to know whether the turban was a requirement after giving examples of Sikh atheletes such as Bishen Singh Bedi and Milkha Singh who never wore turbans in their respective games.
The justices stated:
“We have sympathy for the cause. But have you showed us anything that makes it mandatory under Sikh religion to wear a turban only? For example Bishen Singh Bedi played cricket while simply covering his head. He never wore a turban. And what do soldiers do in battles? Don’t they wear helmets? You basically need to define what is a turban?,” the bench told Puri’s counsel, RS Suri.
The lawyer of Jagdeep cited the Central Motor Vehicle Act grants exemption to Sikhs while driving a two wheeler and countries such as the UK, US, and Canada also allow Sikhs to wear turbans while riding two wheelers.
The bench referenced Milkha Singh and stated, “Great sportspersons have never worn a turban. It seems to us that wearing a turban is not mandatory but covering your head is.”
The bench has asked Jagdeep to provide evidence whether the turban is essential to his religion.
The court told Jagdeeep, “We want to know whether it’s essential part of your (religious) practice.”
The Hindustan Times reported one of the justices saying”
“Do not tell us some guru has said it. We want to know whether it’s essential part of your practise.”