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Belgian court overturns ban on Sikh headgear

July 03, 2008 12:48 IST

In a significant ruling, a Belgian court has set aside the ban imposed on five Sikh students on wearing 'Patkas' (headgears) by a school, saying the restriction amounted to violation of their religious rights.

Pronouncing the judgment on Tuesday, the Hasselt Civil Court said the ban on wearing 'patkas' was a violation of religious rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Belgium is a signatory.

"Unlike France [Images], there is no law in Belgium that bans religious signs in schools. Yet, the school imposed the ban as part of its uniform policy," said Menjinderpal Kaur, Legal Director of the United Sikhs which was a party to the case.

"The court has sent a clear message that it is illegal for a school to deny education to a student because of his religious belief," she said.

A state school -- KTA Domein Speelhof -- had introduced a uniform rule in 2005 banning wearing of any head dress.

Five Sikh students -- Pawandeep Singh (18), Jaswant Singh (20), Parminder Singh (17), Harjeet Singh (14) and Sukhdeep Singh (16) -- were affected by the ban.

"Judge H Coenen said by excluding the victims because of their religious beliefs, the Domein Speelhof school in St Truiden had violated their right to practice their faith," said Kaur.

"We are very grateful to the outfit and the global Sikh community for standing behind us," said Karamjeet Singh, father of Harjeet Singh and Sukhdeep Singh.

He said the two would continue their education in the same school in Belgium. The other three had left the school.

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