PARIS, 2nd March 2006 (AFP) - Photo of the license with Sikh turban: new appeal before the Conseil d'Etat
English Translation of AFP article:
02/03/2006 14:42 PARIS , 2 nd March 2006 (AFP) - Photo of the license with Sikh turban: new appeal before the Conseil d'Etat
A Sikh from Sarcelles (Val-d'Oise) and the United Sikhs Association have appealed to the Conseil d'Etat on Thursday to suspend a circular issued by the Ministry of Transports that imposes the requirement to pose with head uncovered for driving license photographs, considering it as a “detriment to religious freedom”.
“The Sikh wear the turban all every moment of his life, even while sleeping, it is an element of his personality and the condition for his affiliation to his community”, argued Mr. Patrice Spinosi, advocate for the petitioner Shingara Mann Singh, before the Conseil d'Etat appealed to in an interim proceedings case (Interim proceedings).
Mr. Spinosi insisted on the fact that it would be “more difficult to identify a Sikh”, who does not have the right to cut his hair, which is often extremely long, without his turban.
The application of the circular would lead to a “counter-performance” with respect to the objective of identification and a photo with the head uncovered “would not correspond to his daily image”, he sustained before the Interim Proceedings Judge, Marie-Dominique Hagelsteen.
“We are facing a detriment to the freedom of religion and a measure that is discriminatory against an ethnic group”, he said, judging the measure as being “disproportionate” with respect to the pursued objective.
The Judge did not seem convinced with these arguments. “We are not in the framework of a permanent detriment to the freedom of religion, but that of a restriction imposed for reasons of security which is momentary and proportional”, she held.
“The objective of identification is a part of security”, she added.
The Judge will pronounce her decision on Friday or Monday.
Outside the hearing, Shingara Mann Singh who has been living in France since the last 35 years and has the French nationality since 1986, stated that he was not only without his license but also without his passport, the Prefecture of Val-d'Oise having refused to renew his passport of Wednesday on the same grounds.
He asserted that during his military service, in the Air Force in 1987-1988, he had never encountered any problem with respect to his wearing the turban.
This appeal before the Conseil d'Etat is the latest episode of a long saga before the Administrative Justice.
The circular appealed against was issued on 6 th December 2005, a day after a decision by the Conseil d'Etat which adjudicated in favour of the petitioner by basing itself on the fact that the Prefect had justified his initial refusal by invoking an order by the Home Ministry while issuance of driving licenses falls under the purview of the Ministry of Transports.
The new text however, refers to a text issued by the Home Ministry for conditions of issuance of licenses, which states that the photos have to be taken with “head uncovered”.