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Air Force officers can’t grow beard on religious grounds, says SC (Relevant for GS Prelims and Mains Paper II)

SC’s direction to bar IAF personnel from growing beard:
The Supreme Court held that personnel working in the Indian Air Force cannot grow a beard based on religious grounds.
SC bench said that the Centre’s decision to prohibit personnel of a particular community from sporting beard does not infringe upon the fundamental rights.

Background:
The apex court verdict came on two petitions filed separately by two personnel challenging the IAF authorities’ “confidential” order prohibiting Muslim personnel from growing a beard.

Claim of the petitioner:
Petitioner, in his petition had contended that the order was in contravention of fundamental fights of the citizen and also a government letter issued through the Ministry of Home on July 18,1990. The said letter of the home minister permitted the uniformed Muslim/Sikh personnel to sport beard on religious grounds, provided prior permission was sought from the authorities.

Centre’s viewpoint:
The Centre had said that the IAF order  prohibiting personnel from growing a beard was in the interest of cohesiveness in a combat force and it also has security implications.
It had said that these policies are secular in character and have not been framed to govern the conduct of air force personnel of any particular religion.



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