Summary

 

On 23 September 2004 Ranjit Singh was forbidden to enter the school because of his turban.  This decision was made under the law of 15 March 2004 and the circular of 27 May 2004. 

 

However, the decrees of 20 August and 18 December require that permanent exclusion may be ordered only after a lawful meeting of a disciplinary committee, which had not happened in this case. 

 

The school argued that it was still in dialogue with the parents and therefore there was no urgency.  The law had been deliberately disregarded and therefore the present state of affairs is the fault of the pupil.  Exclusion on disciplinary grounds cannot be regarded as interfering with fundamental rights. 

 

The pupil argued that no dialogue has taken place.  Letters have not been responded to.  The circular provides that pupils should receive instruction during the dialogue period. 

 

Art 521-2 of the code of admin procedure: When considering an urgent interim application a judge may order any measures necessary to safeguard any fundamental right which a public authority has seriously interfered with in a manifestly illegal manner. 

 

The period of dialogue should precede the implementation of a disciplinary procedure.  The law of 15 March 2004 does not provide for any exclusion in advance of the disciplinary procedure. 

 

Ranjit Singh has been excluded even though he has had no opportunity to present his case to a disciplinary committee, even though it was not alleged that there was a risk of damage to public order. 

 

This was an urgent situation which called for speedy intervention since it involved a serious and manifestly illegal interference with the rights of defence. 

 

Therefore interim order requiring the convocation of a disciplinary committee within 15 days.

 

 

 

COMMENT by UNITED SIKHS legal counsel, Stephen Grosz, Head of Human Rights at London civil rights law firm, Bindman and Partners. 

 

"This decision is an important first step in the battle against the French law on religious signs.  The Administrative Court has recognised that pupils can't be excluded without having an opportunity to put their case, stating that the case involved a serious and manifestly illegal interference with the rights of defence.  The court noted in particular that the schools did not claim that the pupils wearing turbans created any risk to order within the school. 

 

French law places thousands of school pupils at risk, forcing them to decide between their right to education and their right to manifest their religion.  The court has recognised that their education should not be put in jeopardy while this underlying conflict is resolved.  We hope that the French courts will show the same courage when dealing with the law on religious signs."