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France rules Sikh turbans legal

December 05, 2005 23:06 IST

France's highest administrative body on Monday ruled that Sikhs can wear their turbans in drivers' licence photos.

The ruling overturns an order refusing licence to a Sikh who refused to take off his turban for the photo.

The ruling does not apply to identity or residence cards.

The Council of State, hearing a case brought by Shingara Mann Singh, said officials of his region, the Val d'Oise, could not, as they did, cite a 1999 order by the Interior Ministry to refuse the licence.

The council said drivers' licences were not an interior ministry affair, and that only the transport minister had the right to 'define the conditions ... and determine the documents to be furnished'.

The 1999 transport ministry decree, however, was not 'precise enough' to justify that heads be uncovered for drivers' licence photos, the council said.

The council ordered that Singh be given his licence within a month. Turbans are considered an article of faith to Sikhs.

The ruling could open the way for others, including Muslims wearing headscarves, to get drivers' licence photos that show them with their heads covered. However, the technical loophole could be undone should the transport ministry issue clearer orders banning head coverings on drivers' licence photos.

In 2004, France banned conspicuous apparel, such as Muslim headscarves or Sikh turbans, from public schools.

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