The Home Ministry Thursday advised the Chandigarh administration to exempt Sikh women from wearing helmets while driving two-wheelers. The administration had sought advice in the matter after Sikh bodies sought that all women, non-turbaned as well, be exempt from wearing helmets. The directions came despite the Punjab and Haryana High Court asking the state government to clarify how it exempted all Sikh women from the rule.
Earlier this year in July, the Chandigarh administration amended Rule 193 of the Chandigarh Motor Vehicle Rules, 1990, and made it compulsory for all women to wear protective headgear. However, on religious grounds, it exempted Sikh women who wore a turban — Sikhs had argued that the helmet represents a cap which symbolises slavery.
The notification had read, “…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.”
What is the law in India on helmets?
According to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, every person driving or riding shall, while in a public place, wear protective gear, which means a helmet, conforming to the standards of Bureau of Indian Standards. The Law, however, exempts Sikhs, if he/she is wearing a turban while riding.
The law also states that state governments may provide exceptions as it sees fit. This law was upheld by the Supreme Court in an order dated September 9, 2014, wherein it said the state had the power to relax helmet rules.
It was after this order that Chandigarh, which had till then mandated helmets for women, relaxed the law.
Why did Chandigarh change its decision on helmets in July?
In 2018, 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 (PIL) filed by law researcher, Anil Saini, seeking changes in the legal provisions in Punjab and Chandigarh, which provided women exemption from wearing helmets.
What are the helmet laws in other states
New Delhi made it compulsory for women to wear helmets in 2014 with an amendment to Rule 115 of the Delhi Motor Vehicles Rules, 1993. Sikh women wearing turbans, however, are exempt.
In Karnataka, half-helmets and low-quality products that come without the ISI mark are banned. Headgears that cover the whole face come with ISI mark. Police consider other helmets as ‘half-helmets’ or those not conforming to BIS.
Uttar Pradesh has also made it mandatory for two-wheeler pillion riders in the state to wear helmets.
In Odisha, violators are penalised and driving licenses are cancelled if helmets are not worn.
Andhra Pradesh has a unique rule; it has implemented a ‘no helmet, no petrol’ rule for two-wheeler riders to reduce accidental deaths.
What is the law on helmets in other countries?
In Europe, it is mandatory to wear a helmet. In the UK, particularly, riders must meet specific helmet requirements. Each state in the US has its own laws on helmets, ranging from being compulsory to only for riders of a certain age or in particular circumstance.