Turban ban battle reaches European Court of Human Rights

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Patiala, Jun 5 (UNI) United Sikhs, a Sikh rights outfit, has moved to European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and challenged the French law which banned the turban in public schools in 2004.

The United Sikhs lawyers have filed its petition in the ECHR, which would be the first against France since it passed a law in March 2004 banning the wearing of conspicuous religious signs, including the Sikh turban, in public schools, Mejindarpal Kaur, United Sikhs Director for International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy today told UNI over phone from London.

The applicants, Jasvir Singh and Ranjit Singh, were 14 and 17 years old respectively when they were expelled from Michel High School in Bigny for wearing a keski, a discreet piece of cloth, which acts as an under-turban.

A third student, Bikramjit Singh, who was 18 at the time, was also expelled in 2004 and United Sikhs will be filing his appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee shortly, said United Sikhs director, Mejindarpal Kaur.

''The small community of French Sikhs has gallantly fought these cases in the French courts for the last three years, supported by the global Sikh community, she said.

''We are now in the highest human rights court in Europe, not only to fight for our rights but to protect the freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all," "I am now studying law at Sorbonne University, wearing a turban.

This is proof that there is nothing wrong with the French system.

What is wrong is the law that banned the turban in schools and we hope the ECHR will give us justice," said 21-year-old Ranjit Singh, one of the applicants to the ECHR.

The other applicant, Jasvir Singh, is now in his final year at Lycei Fenelon, a Catholic school, which later admitted both to enable them to finish their high school.

Since the expulsions in 2004, three more Sikh students have been expelled in the following years - Gurinder Singh, Maha Singh, and Jasmeet Singh, whose cases are still being dealt with in the French courts.

Since the passing of the controversial French law banning the Sikh turban in public schools, three Sikhs -- Shingara Singh, Ranjit Singh and Manjit Singh -- have also been denied their driving licence, passport, refugee card, and ID card because they refused to remove their turban for their ID photo.

United Sikhs was also taking up their cases at various fora, Mejindarpal Kaur said.

UNI XC JN DB 1805

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