The Chandigarh Administration on Friday issued an order making helmet mandatory for women riding two-wheelers.
According to the new rule, only a Sikh (man or woman) wearing turban would be exempted from the order. Till date, women, riding two-wheelers, were exempted from wearing helmet.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Traffic, Shashank Anand, however, said that challans would not be issued with immediate effect. “We will first hold massive awareness drives to make women riders aware of the said notification. Challans will not be issued as of now,” he told Chandigarh Newsline. When asked for how many days the awareness drive would continue, the SSP replied, “We will assess that in the coming days.”
The fresh amendment has been made in Rule 193 of Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1990.
The notification by the UT Administrator issued on Friday afternoon, stated, “In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 129 read with provisions of Clause (41) of Section 2 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, the Administrator, Union Territory, Chandigarh, is pleased to amend Rule 193 of Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1990, as follows; in the said rule, the words ‘or a woman’ are hereby substituted by the words, ‘a Sikh person (including woman) wearing a turban’, with immediate effect.”
In 1998, similar orders had led to massive protests by Sikhs, who insisted that female members of the community would not wear helmet as it is like a cap which symbolises slavery. In its order dated July 9, 1998, in a civil writ petition titled Namit Kumar versus UT, Chandigarh, and others, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had given exemption from helmets only to “Sikhs wearing turban while driving (sic)”.
That led to vociferous protests by Sikh women, who also wanted to be exempted claiming that helmet was a cap symbolising slavery in their religion. After the protests, the Chandigarh Administration appealed to the Supreme Court in 1999, challenging the HC directions.
The SC, in its order dated 27-9-2004, ruled that the state had the power to relax rules in a particular area following which Chandigarh exempted all women from wearing helmet.
This year, taking suo motu cognisance, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that 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 the legal provisions in Punjab and Chandigarh, which provided women exemption from wearing helmet.