Women driving or riding pillion on a two-wheeler will have to wear helmets now.
The Delhi government on Thursday issued a notification making it mandatory for women to wear a helmet if they are travelling on a two-wheeler. Sikh women, however, have been exempted from the rule on religious grounds.
A senior transport department official said that under the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules, 1993, it was “optional for women whether riding pillion or driving a motor cycle to wear a protective headgear”.
“We have now amended that rule and replaced the word ‘women’ with ‘Sikh women’, thus making it mandatory for all other women to wear a helmet while travelling on a two-wheeler,” a senior transport department official said.
The Delhi government had earlier made helmets mandatory for everyone in 1998 but following objections from the Sikh community, the government had made it optional for women in 1999.
On the recommendation of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the transport department had earlier issued a draft notification and had invited opinions from the general public. The department had got 79 objections and 22 of them had come from Sikh organisations, seeking exemption for Sikh women.
Implementation a challenge
The officials, however, agree that it will be difficult to implement this order. “Any woman can claim she is Sikh. With the order, there should have been a list of documents that a Sikh woman should be carrying to prove her identity while travelling on a two-wheeler,” said a senior transport department official.
Organisations working in the field of road safety too find the new order bizarre. “The government should have tried to convince the religious groups how important it was for women to wear helmets. It will be a challenge for the government now to implement the order properly,” said Piyush Tewari, founder, SaveLife Foundation — an advocacy group for road safety.
Senior traffic police officers said they will try and educate women about the new orders. Prosecuting violators will start later and onus of proving identity will be on the Sikh women.
“Our aim will not be to prosecute but to educate women about the new law. Ample time will be given to them to buy helmets and practice wearing them. Educational programmes will also be organised to help them,” said Anil Shukla, joint commissioner of police (traffic). The onus of identifying themselves and convincing the cop on the road lies with the women. They can do that via an identification card or any other document which states their religion,” he said.
Ullhas PR, a social activist who filed a PIL to make helmets mandatory, said the traffic police should penalise all women on the spot. “The Sikh women should go to the court to prove their identity. It will serve as a deterrent.”