The Supreme Court on Thursday said that a beard is not acceptable for anyone in the Indian Air Force, no matter what religion. The apex court dismissed the petition of a Muslim officer who was sacked in 2008.
A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur also said that the Centre’s decision to ban beards in the Air Force does not infringe upon fundamental rights.
Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed had moved court against a “confidential” order in 2003 banning beards.
Zubair had argued that the order was against his fundamental rights, but the court on Thursday said regulations are meant for uniformity and discipline and have nothing to do with religious rights.
Zubair also said such a ban contradicted a 1990 letter of the home minister that allowed Muslim and Sikh personnel to keep their beard on religious grounds, provided they ask for permission.
During arguments in the case, the centre told the court that the air force is “undoubtedly a secular force with due regard for all religions and it is imperative that its personnel are guided by a sense of brotherhood without any distinction of caste, creed, colour or religion.”
It also said that the blanket no-beard rule is in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force, which also has security implications.