Sikh pilot asks court to let him carry religious dagger on planes

A Sikh pilot in India has approached a court to seek a permit to carry a religious dagger while flying and inside airports.

Angad Singh, a pilot working with Indian private carrier Indigo, has moved the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court seeking permission from the government of India to carry the “kirpan”.

Kirpan, a dagger with a curved blade, is one of the five physical symbols worn by Sikhs which are considered as markers of the Sikh identity. The others are “kesh” or uncut hair, “kara” which is a steel bracelet, the “kanga”, a wooden comb, and “kacchera” or underwear.

The petitioner, Mr Singh, argued that Sikh people working in the aviation industry should be allowed to carry the religious symbol as it has been enshrined in Article 25 of the Indian constitution which guarantees religious freedom.

Sikh passengers are already allowed to carry a kirpan when traveling by air.

In March 2022, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s aviation regulatory authority, issued directives to grant “exceptional regulatory sanction”, enabling Sikh air passengers to carry kirpans with blades not exceeding six inches length on civilian flights.

A correction notice issued after a few days permitted Sikhs employed at airports to also carry kirpans.

Mr Singh said that the same should also be applicable to the employees in the industry.

He said he was not allowed to carry his religious dagger at the airport and it was confiscated by the airport authority.

Mr Singh highlighted a Delhi High Court judgment that observed there should be no discrimination between Sikh passengers and stakeholders working as ground staff.

“The very act of the respondents in not permitting the petitioner to carry kirpan while travelling even when passengers are allowed to carry the same is logic or reasoning as it is easier to control and monitor the actions of the stakeholders and employees such as the petitioner rather than to monitor the passengers who are travelling in the flight,” his petition stated.

“The passengers being permitted to carry kirpan, it defies logic and reasoning why the petitioner should be deprived of carrying the kirpan while travelling”.

A notification has been issued to the Ministry of Aviation, the Director General of the Central Industrial Security Force and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security to seek their responses on the matter.

The next hearing in the case has been scheduled on 29 January 2024.

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