Beard row: Tribunal upholds sepoy’s dismissal over refusal to shave beard on religious grounds

New Delhi: The Kochi Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has upheld the Army’s decision to dismiss a sepoy who refused to remove his beard on religious grounds.

Maktumhusen, an Ex-Sepoy in Army Medical Corps, had filed an application before the Tribunal challenging the order of his discharge from military service for refusing to remove his beard.

Maktumhusen, who joined as Sepoy in Army Medical Corps, Indian Army in April, 2001 was posted on transfer to 371 Field Hospital during 2010.

On his request, the Commanding Officer had granted him permission to grow a beard on religious grounds with directions to apply for fresh ID Card imposing conditions that he has to give an undertaking in writing to keep the beard for the remainder period of his service. But the permission was withdrawn later.

The Tribunal said that while so, the Commanding Officer issued him charge sheet imputing that despite repeated verbal and written instructions he had refused to remove his beard.

He was tried on such charge, found guilty and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment in military custody.

He was then transferred to Command Hospital (SC) Pune.

When he reported for joining duty, the Commanding Officer asked him to shave off his beard overruling his submissions that he had been previously granted permission to grow a beard and also the pendency of a writ petition filed by him before the High Court questioning the withdrawal of the permission granted to him to keep a beard.

A preliminary inquiry was conducted in which findings were entered that he had misconducted himself by growing a beard, defying the orders given for its removal. His misconduct was held to be unbecoming of a disciplined soldier, and hence he was to be treated as an undesirable soldier.

On the basis of the findings in the preliminary inquiry, he was discharged from service as an undesirable soldier under Rule 13(3)III (v) of the Army Rule 1954.

The Tribunal, comprising Justice S S Satheeshchandran and Vice Admiral M P Muralidharan, has found that Maktumhusen, who belong to Dharward district of Karnataka, was initially granted permission to grow and keep beard but later it was withdrawn.

“The applicant, despite being directed to remove his beard, continued to be adamant and declined to do so. He was rightly discharged from military service as undesirable soldier,” the Tribunal ruled.

After pronouncement of the order, the counsel for the applicant requested for leave to appeal in the Supreme Court.

The Tribunal said that “in our opinion, no question of law of general public importance is involved in the matter. Hence, leave requested for is refused.”