New Delhi, Dec 15: The Supreme Court on Thursday held that Indian Air Force personnel cannot sport beards. A petition had been filed by one Ansari Aftab Ahmed, who had sought a direction to the IAF to let him sport his beard. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India, T S Thakur held that regulations are meant to ensure discipline and uniformity.
Ahmed who was discharged from service by the IAF in October 2008 said that sporting a beard was his fundamental right to freedom of religion. He argued that Sikhs were allowed to sport unshorn hair and a turban.
The IAF told the court that all Muslims do not carry a beard. The practice of growing and keeping beard is optional and sporting a beard is not universally recognised in Islam. Hence it cannot be said that the religion prohibits cutting of hair or shaving of facial hair, the IAF contended.
In 2009 the UPA government had told the court that it was taking a fresh look at the issue. However, the government later on said that it would contest the petition along with the IAF.
Defence ministry's policy:
The defence ministry's policy of 'hair, beard and wearing turbans' was notified in 2003. It says, "Only those Muslim personnel, who had kept beard along with mustache at the time of commissioning /enrollment prior to January 1, 2002, would be allowed to keep beard and mustache."
"Muslims who have grown a beard after joining service should shave off the beard. Under no circumstances, a Muslim person who had a beard at the time of joining service before January 1, 2002, shall be allowed to maintain beard without mustache. A mustache would be a part of the beard."