Muslim Air Force men cannot grow beards – Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today upheld service rules and provisions that impose ‘clean shaven’ rules for the Indian Air Force.

Dismissing a petition by a Muslim person, the court said the Air Force was well within its authority to lay down the rule prohibiting the sporting of a beard for its personnel.

Many organizations, including the state police departments and central security forces, impose strict uniform and dress code guidelines on their members.

Besides requiring them to wear clothes of a particular color, style and specifications, many of them also have rules about how much hair they can sport on their head and face.

Some exceptions are given in case of religious minorities, including Sikhs, who hold religious beliefs that they must not cut their hair. Sikhs in the Indian Army are allowed to keep a beard and have long hair, which is kept in place by their turban.

Many Muslims in India have been asking for relaxation of uniform rules to be allowed to keep beards in line with their religious counterparts in the Middle East.

Most policemen in countries in the Gulf, for example, sport beards, though many of them shave off their mustaches.

Recently, policemen in Kerala filed a petition in the Kerala High Court against the Left Front government’s decision not to allow them to grow beards. The action came after a policeman was denied permission to grow beard by the state police chief.

In his petition, Riyaz K, posted in the Armed Reserve Camp at Ernakulam, said Air Force and Navy personnel were permitted to grow beard on religious and medical grounds, and he should also be allowed to do so.

Admitting the petition, the Kerala High Court issued notice to the state government and the state police chief.

Kerala’s minority affairs minister KT Jaleel subsequently justified the police chief’s move, even going to the extent of claiming that Islam did not require its adherents to sport a beard.