New Delhi: PILs seeking revocation of the city government's notification to exempt sikh women from wearing helmet while driving or pillion riding two-wheelers were on Thursday rejected by the Delhi High Court which observed that it is not feasible to make headguard mandatory for them.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw also said that the Delhi government's decision "excluding Sikh women is a well-thought-out and considered decision and taken after following the procedure prescribed in the MV Act".
"The respondent Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) is found to have, in exercise of its rule- making power and the power under second proviso to section 129, after weighing rival contentions, reached at a conclusion that presently it is not feasible to make it mandatory for Sikh women also to wear helmet/protective headgear.
"The said decision is found to be in the legislative domain of the GNCTD and to have been made in accordance with law and neither the courts nor the petitioners can substitute their own opinion for the same," the judges said.
The court's order came on two different public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the recent amendment to Rule 115(2) of the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules that has exempted Sikh women from wearing helmet in Delhi.
The court had earlier asked the transport department to apprise it as to why it has made such an amendment in Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules that exempts Sikh women from wearing a helmet.
One of the PILs had said that the government's transport department notification, issued on August 28, was "illegal" and "unconstitutional".
However, the court held that it "does not find" any merit in the petitions and dismissed these while saying its hopes that all the agencies concerned will make efforts to build public opinion or devise other modes and ways to ensure protection from head injuries also to Sikh women driving or pillion riding two-wheelers.
The bench said, "We are also of the view that it is not
for this court to adjudicate whether or not Sikh religion comes in the way of the women wearing helmets.
"The persons professing the said religion asserted so and the government which under the statute has been empowered to grant the exemption found it to be so. It is not for this court to interfere.
"As far as we have otherwise been able to understand, the Sikh religion forbids both men and women professing the said religion from wearing any head covering, other than a turban," the court said.
The petitions had said that the impugned notification sought to amend rule 115(2) of the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules, 1993 which hitherto exempted all women from wearing helmets when driving or pillion riding two-wheelers, to allow the exemption from wearing a helmet only to Sikh women.
"The rule as it stood before the amendment and as it stands after the amendment is violative of section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, the parent Act from which the state government derives its rule-making power," they had said.
Studies done all over the world suggest that helmet prevents injuries and helps preserve life in the event of an accident, the PILs had said.