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SC refuses to entertain plea against BCAS decision to allow Sikhs carry Kirpan in domestic airports
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain the plea challenging the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security's (BCAS) decision to allow Sikh passengers to carry kirpan on domestic flights operating from domestic terminals.
A bench of Justices Abdul Nazeer and JK Maheshwari, however, granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the concerned High Court. Thereafter, the petitioner withdrew the petition. The petition was filed by Hindu Sena, through advocate Ankur Yadav, which sought to issue direction to restrain any article in the airport on the basis of religion that may pose a potential threat to the flight.
The petitioner Hindu Sena has challenged the Aviation Security order dated March 4, 2022, and corrigendum dated March 12, 2022, issued by the respondent Bureau of Civil Aviation Security alleging that whereby the respondent created a loophole in the safety and security of the Airport and the aircraft and also safety and security of the passengers thereby violating the Fundamental Right to Life and Personal liberty of the public at large guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
In March, Aviation security regulator BCAS has earlier allowed Sikh aviation sector employees to carry kirpan on a person within the airport premises.
On March 4 2020, BCAS allowed Sikh passengers to carry Kirpan with the exception that this shall be for Sikh passengers only and, no stakeholder or its employee at the airport (including Sikh) and working in any terminal, domestic or international, shall be allowed to carry Kirpan on the person. But on March 12 BCAS removed the exception and allowed its Sikh employee to carry Kirpan.
"Kirpan may be carried only by a Sikh passenger, on his person, provided the length of its blade does not exceed 15.24 cms (6 inches), and the total length of a Kirpan does not exceed 22.86 cms (9 inches). It is allowed while travelling by air on Indian aircrafts within India (domestic routes of fully domestic flights operating from Domestic Terminals only," the Avsec order copy stated.
This exception shall be for Sikh passengers only as stated above. And, no stakeholder or its employee at the airport (including Sikh) and working in any terminal, domestic or international, shall be allowed to carry Kirpan on the person.
The petitioner claimed that said order was issued in a discriminatory manner and the respondents acted like anti-secular and allowed members of the Sikh community to carry 'kirpan' at their person not only at the airports but also in the flight cabin on domestic flights.
The petitioner sought the issuance of appropriate direction to the respondents to rectify the anomaly in the said order of the respondents.
The petitioner Hindu Sena, who claimed to be a Registered Non-Profit Organization working towards Sanathan Dharma Profession, Upliftment of Hindu Community, Cow Protection and building of Dharmarashtra, raised the question of whether freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion as guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India is absolute without limitation to public order and safety to the co-passengers in a flight.
The petitioner also raised the issue that whether the respondent Bureau of Civil Aviation Security is empowered under the provisions of sub-section 1A of section 5A of the Aircraft Act 1934 (XXII of 1934), read with rule 3(b) of Aircraft (Security) Rules, 2011 to allow a person of a specific religion to carry 'kripan' (curved sharp knife) on his person in the flight cabin.
"Whether allowing a person of a specific religion to carry an object at his person which may be used as a weapon in the flight cabin among the co-passengers who are not allowed to carry any object in flight which may be used as a weapon in the flight amounts to discrimination on the basis of religion, accordingly, is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India? " the petitioner questioned and also asked whether allowing 'kripan' in flight is violative of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India?
"The freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion has to be in consonance of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India along with other Articles in PART III and where the said freedom exceeds the limitation, it is curtailed by restrictions provided under Article 25 itself," the petition said.
Hence the petitioner urged the top court to issue direction to declare the Aviation Security order dated March 3, 2022 and corrigendum dated 12.03.2022 as invalid being in sheer contradiction to the interest of the security of India and the security of civil aviation operations.
The petition also urged the court to issue directions to the respondents to not allow any article in the airport and in flight on the basis of religion that may pose a potential threat in the flight. (ANI)