A public interest litigation has been moved before the Delhi High Court challenging a notification that allows Sikh passengers to carry Kirpans whilst on board any domestic flight in the country.
Issuing notice on the plea, a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad today sought response from the Centre through Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Home Affairs, Director General of Civil Aviation and Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.
According to the impugned notification, Sikh passengers have been allowed to carry Kirpan 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 traveling by air on Indian aircrafts within India.
The plea avers that the Impugned Notification does not distinguish applicability to Sikh Indian citizens, thereby claiming that even Sikh passengers from other nations can carry Kirpans on person whilst travelling in any Indian plane on domestic routes.
"That if the State obsequiously acquiesces to demands for carriage of Kirpan on person in flights in India to preserve its religious prescription and sanctity, what happens to such prescriptive sanctity in nations where carriage is barred by aviation policy? Does the faith get desecrated if a Kirpan is necessarily packed and carried only in checked in baggage? How does the religious faith get sanctified by carriage on person in flights in India and nevertheless gets sanctified by the carriage in checked-in baggage in other countries?," the plea adds.
The plea also argues that the Impugned Notification is bad in law and has "mauled" civil aviation safety protocols and international conventions. It adds that the notification is issued without application of mind, thereby brushing aside safety and security concerns.
"That in alacrity to satiate demands of a particular religion, the State cannot disregard need for vigilance by allowing unrestricted and unrestrained on person carriage of Kirpans on an unstated but facile and fatuous presumption having no factual basis that carriage does not pose or exacerbate risks to civilian flights. Recorded history expresses concern," the plea states.
The matter will now be heard on November 15.
Case Title: Harsh Vibhore Singhal v. The Cabinet Secretary Government of India & Ors