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PIL gets Delhi HC to ask: Why don't Sikh women need to wear helmets on bikes?

The Delhi high court Wednesday asked the city government why it has exempted Sikh women pillion riders from wearing a helmet following a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the exemption.

A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw asked the transport department to apprise the court why it has made such an amendment in the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules that exempts Sikh women from wearing a helmet.

“We would like to know why it (helmet) is not for Sikh women. Why the government made out such an amendment? What is the reason behind it?,” the bench said, asking the government to produce the judgment passed by the High Court on a PIL seeking a direction to make helmets mandatory for women two-wheeler riders, including pillion riders.

The court’s direction came after advocate Zubeda Begum, appearing for the transport department, told the bench that in January the court had passed an order on a similar PIL and asked the government to decide on the issue.

After the court’s direction, the transport department amended the rules and exempted Sikh women from wearing helmets on religious grounds.

The court posted the matter for Nov 12.

The PIL filed by advocate Bhupender Pratap Singh said that according to the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act only Sikh men wearing turbans are exempted from wearing helmets while riding motorcycles and scooters.

However, the amended Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules have exempted the Sikh women from wearing helmets. Singh contended that this provision is violative of the MV Act.

“The MV Act mandates the helmet law for all except Sikh men wearing a turban...The amended rule by virtue of the exemption given to Sikh women from wearing helmets continues to be ultra-vires to the parent (MV) Act,” the plea said.

“It (amended rule) is thus illegal and liable to be declared void to the extent of exemption given to the Sikh women from the requirement of wearing a helmet when driving or riding pillion on a motorcycle,” it added.

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