The Chandigarh administration issued a fresh draft notification on Wednesday making helmet optional for Sikh women riding two-wheelers in the city. The notification comes seven days after the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory to UT to follow the Delhi government pattern which makes wearing of helmet optional for Sikh women.
On July 6, the Chandigarh Administration, on the intervention of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, made changes in its Rule 193 of the Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules 1990 making helmet mandatory for all women except “Sikh person (including women) wearing turban”.
However, Sikh bodies, wanting an exemption for all Sikh women, non-turbaned as well, opposed the move and met Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The MHA then issued the advisory to UT. The matter, relating to helmet exemption for women, is still pending in the High Court.
The draft notification, issued by the Chandigarh Administration, said the words “Sikh person wearing turban” be replaced with “Sikh women”. Objections and suggestions have been invited from people on this, within the next 30 days.
“Whereas the Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, in its communication dated 10’10’2018, has advised the Chandigarh Administration to provide an option to Sikh women from wearing the protective headgear on pattern similar to Government of Delhi as provided in the Transport Department notification. Therefore, in pursuance of the above and in exercise of powers conferred under Section 129 read with provision of clause (a1) of Section 2 of Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, the Administrator, Union Territory, Chandigarh, proposes to substitute the words Sikh women instead of Sikh person (including women) wearing a turban, thereby making it optional for Sikh women to wear protective headgear while driving/riding a two-wheeler,” reads the notification.
Taking suo motu cognizance, a division bench of the High Court this year said road accidents “do not see the gender of the victim”. The bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal made the observation while hearing a public interest litigation filed by law researcher Anil Saini, seeking changes in legal provisions in Punjab and Chandigarh, which provided women exemption from wearing helmet.
Following the observations, the UT Administration made amendments in its rules under the Motor Vehicle Act which previously provided exemption to all women. The challan drive began on September 5. UT then filed a status report in the High Court informing it about the amended notification making helmet mandatory for all women. On September 26, the HC also directed the Punjab government to clarify its exemption to Sikh women.
“What has been stated is that all Sikh women have been exempted from wearing helmet whether they are driving or riding pillion. There is no specification as to how a Sikh woman would be identified. Secondly, there is no justification in exempting all Sikh women from wearing helmet even if they were not wearing turban,” the order read.
The next hearing of the case is scheduled for November 15 when UT is likely to place the draft notification before the High Court.