France violated Sikh’s right to wearing turban: UN

France violated Sikh’s right to wearing turban: UN

The UN rights committee has said France violated the religious freedom of a 76-year-old Sikh when he was asked to remove his turban for his ID photograph.

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) has asked France to submit a report by March 15 on measures the government was taking to remedy the violation of the religious freedom of Ranjit Singh, the United Sikhs group said in a statement.

Ranjit Singh, despite his ill-health, has had no access to the public health care system or to social benefits since 2005 because his residence card was withheld due to his refusal to remove his turban for ID photo.

Mejindarpal Kaur, legal director of the group, said the organisation had filed a communication on behalf of Ranjit Singh to the UNHRC in December 2008.

The UNHRC observed that “even if the obligation to remove the turban for the identity photograph might be described as a one-time requirement, it would potentially interfere with Ranjit Singh’s freedom of religion on a continuing basis because he would always appear without his religious head covering in the identity photograph and could therefore be compelled to remove his turban during identity checks”.

The UN committee said France failed to explain how the turban hindered identification since the wearer’s face would be visible even if he was wearing the turban at all times.

Ranjit Singh said he had faith that truth and justice would prevail. “I patiently waited for this day. I pray that France will now fulfil its obligation and grant me a residence card bearing my photo without baring my head,” he said.

Kaur said France should now fulfil its moral duty “to ensure that the freedom of religion and belief is upheld for everyone who lives within its territory”.