There is no elementary right under Article 25 for a police force personnel to keep a beard, the Allahabad High Court recently ruled (Mohd. Farman v. State of UP). Single judge Justice Rajesh Singh Chauhan, dismissed the petition filed by one Mohd. Farman, a constable with Uttar Pradesh Police, incorporates a fundamental right to stay beard despite specific direction issued to the contrary by the superior authority. The court said that Article 25 guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, apply and propagation of the faith, therefore, having beard by a member of disciplined force might not be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, inasmuch as Article 25 of the Constitution of India does not confer absolute right in this regard, all the rights have to be compelled to be viewed within the context and letter and spirit during which they have framed under the Constitution. The rights guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India have built-in restrictions.
The Court also held that the police force has to be a disciplined force and being a law enforcing agency, it is necessary that such force must have a profane image that strengthens national integration.
Farman had filed two petitions before the High Court. By way of his first writ petition, Farman assailed a circular dated October 26, 2020, issued by the Director-General of Police, UP laying down the guidelines regarding wearing the proper uniform and proper appearance warranted for the members of the force. The second petition challenged a suspension order dated November 5, 2020, passed by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ayodhya by which Farman was placed under suspension in contemplation of departmental inquiry for the reason that despite being a member of a disciplined force, he was maintaining a beard.
he also challenged the charge sheet dated July 29, 2021, issued by the Superintendent of Police (Rural Area), Ayodhya against him.
Farman's counsel, advocate Amit Bose referred to the Supreme Court judgment in Bijoe Emmanuel and others vs. the State of Kerala and submitted that the court held that even if any student does sing National Anthem in school prayer due to their religious belief, such right is protected under Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, rejecting the request of the petitioner for maintaining beard in the light of the circular dated October 26, 2020, is violative of Article 25 of the Constitution of India. the conduct of the petitioner not cutting his beard despite the specific direction being issued by the superior authority does not come within the purview of misconduct, therefore, no charge-sheet should have been issued against the petitioner to conduct the departmental inquiry.
On the other hand, Additional Chief Standing Counsel, Vivek Kumar Shukla submitted that the charge-sheet should not be interfered by the Court.
After considering the submission and records of the case, the Court held that a member of a disciplined force must strictly follow the executive orders or circulars or instructions issued by the department or by the higher authority of the department as those executive orders are as good as service condition.
Regarding the action initiated against the petitioner, the Court held that non-cutting of beard amounts to a violation of the circular issued by higher officials amounts to a misdemeanor. Thia amounts to misdeed, misdemeanor, and delinquency of the petitioner.
The Court, therefore, directed that the inquiry officer shall conduct and conclude the departmental inquiry strictly in accordance with provisions law, following the principles of natural justice preferably within a period of three months. the Court emphasized that no interference should be done, inasmuch as, maintaining and wearing a proper uniform as well as maintaining physical appearance is one of the first and foremost requirements of the members of a disciplined force.