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Right to equality : Muslims in Uniform can keep beard : Court

NEW DELHI: The controversy over the right of Muslims to keep a beard while serving in various uniformed forces has been resolved with the Supreme Court asking the Central government to reinstate Assam Rifles' jawan Haider Ali and pay his dues since he was sacked in 1997 from the force for abiding by his religious faith to keep a beard.

Haider Ali, a rifleman, was asked to shave his beard which he had grown after sanction by the authorities. He later refused to shave it off saying under Muslim rites, once a beard is grown, it cannot be shaved.

He was summarily court martialled and dismissed from service for disobeying the orders. Haider Ali invoked the Constitutional provision guaranteeing right to religion and challenged his dismissal order before the Delhi HC.

The HC judges, Justices B A Khan and C K Mahajan, relied on an Allahabad High Court decision on a similar matter and noted: "There is no rule which provides that one cannot keep a beard. Our country is governed by the rule of law and matters are to be decided according to law... and not on the likes and dislikes of an individual officer, however high position he may be holding."

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