The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Wednesday advised the Chandigarh Administration to make helmets optional for Sikh women riding two-wheelers or sitting pillion, as per the practice in New Delhi. The advisory comes a week after the ministry told the Union Territory (UT) to exempt them from wearing protective headgear. The administration had approached the ministry regarding the matter after Sikh bodies sought that all women, non-turbaned as well, be exempt from wearing helmets.
The directions come despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking the state government to clarify how it exempted all Sikh women from the rule.
On July 6, 2018, the UT amended an earlier notification of exempting all women from wearing a helmet to exempt only “turban-wearing Sikh women” from the rule. But Sikh outfits went against this and sought an exemption for all Sikh women. Chandigarh administration then conveyed to the ministry about the situation and sought its advice in the matter.
Finding no solution to their problem, Sikh bodies, headed by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh following which the advisory exempting all Sikh women was issued to Chandigarh.
The new rule makes wearing helmets optional for all “Sikh women”.
This year, taking suo motu cognisance, a Punjab and Haryana High Court division bench observed that road mishaps “do not see the gender of the victim”. The bench, which comprised Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal made this observation while hearing a public interest litigation filed by law researcher Anil Saini. The researcher sought amendments in the laws in Punjab and Chandigarh which kept women exempted from wearing a helmet subjecting them to risk of getting fatal head injuries in road accidents.
Following the observations, the UT Administration made amendments in its rules under the Motor Vehicle Act. The challan drive began on September 5. The city administration then filed a status report in the High Court informing it about the amended notification. On September 26, during the hearing, the High Court also directed the Punjab government to clarify its exemption to Sikh women.