Cop's beard battle in SC

New Delhi, Jan. 22: A Muslim police constable today knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court for justice after the Maharashtra government and the state's high court refused to entertain his plea for permission to sport a beard.

Zahiroddin Shamsoddin Bedade said while his religion made it "obligatory on every adult male" to keep a beard, it was "sinful not to", according to the holy Quran.

"There are several Hadith(s) (traditions or sayings) of the holy Prophet Mohammed regarding keeping of beard," his petition said.

A bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar stayed the high court's order that had upheld the state government's rule and asked the Centre, the Maharashtra government and the commandant of the State Reserve Police Force, Group No. 3, Jalna, to respond to the constable's petition.

The bench sought the replies within four weeks.

In his petition to the apex court, Shamsoddin said his commandant in Jalna, where he was posted, had on May 7, 2012, granted him permission to sport a beard following an application he had moved. The state government had then cited a 1989 circular issued by the Union home ministry to grant him the permission.

Paragraph B(1) of the circular says a member of the force belonging to the Muslim community may be permitted to keep a beard on religious grounds.

But five months later, on October 9, 2012, Shamsoddin said the commandant cancelled the May 7 permission, citing amended guidelines issued by the state home ministry.

The constable said the order cancelling the permission was issued without giving him an opportunity to be heard.

Shamsoddin then filed a writ petition in the high court, complaining that his fundamental rights under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and profession) and Article 26 (freedom to manage religious affairs) had been violated. But the high court dismissed his plea.

He then approached the top court.

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