PATIALA: France’s highest court, the Conseil Detat, has ruled that the ban against the turban in schools was legal because there was a greater interest to be served in preserving secularity than a religious belief.
Exactly three years after Bikramjit Singh, Jasvir Singh and Ranjit Singh were expelled from the Louise-Michel High School of Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis), the Conseil d’Etat ruled on December 5, that the keski , the under-turban they wore to school, was not a discreet sign but an ostensible manifestation of religion which is prohibited by the French law dated 15 March 2004.
Mejindarpal Kaur, Director, International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA) talking to Punjabnewsline.com over telephone from France said that Lawyers acting for the 3 boys, who had been instructed by UNITED SIKHS and the French Turban Action Committee, had argued before the Conseil d’Etat that the expulsion of the 3 schoolboys had infringed article 9 and article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which provided for the freedom to manifest one’s religion and the right not to be discriminated, respectively.
The Conseil d’Etat concluded that in the interest of secularism in public schools, the permanent expulsion of a student who does not conform to the legal ban on wearing of ostensible religious signs “does not lead to an excessive infringement upon the freedom of thought, conscience and religion guaranteed by Article 9”.
Further, the Conseil d’Etat said that since the ban applied to all religions signs, it was not discriminatory against the Sikhs, under article 14.
Even though the ban on religious signs in schools affected all religious communities, the ban has only been challenged by 6 Sikh French schoolboys to date. Three of Sikh boys were expelled in the years following the first expulsions.
“UNITED SIKHS has instructed Stephen Grosz, Rabinder Singh QC and junior counsel Schona Jolly to file the appeals to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC),” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS director who has led the Right To Turban campaign since 2004.
“We will be seeking to file the appeals on behalf of all the 6 schoolboys in the European Human Rights Court and the UNHRC by late January,” she added.
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