On the first day of the hearing of her appeal against the Aberdare Girls school for banning Sarika Watkins-Singh, 14, from wearing a kara, her counsel told the court that the bangle was a symbol of faith and not a piece of jewellery.
Lawyer Helen Mountfield told High Court Judge Justice Silber that the steel wrist bangle means as much to Sarika as it does to the England spin bowler Monty Panesar and showed a picture of his.
She explained that the kara was one of the five Ks of Sikhism, the others being kesh (uncut hair), kanga (wooden comb), kaccha (specially designed shorts) and kirpan (sword). The judge asked that the bangle be shown to him during the three-day hearing.
Sarika, a Punjabi-Welsh girl, from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, South Wales, claims she was the victim of unlawful discrimination when she was excluded from Aberdare Girls’ School last November after refusing to remove the bangle. The school, at which Sarika was the only Sikh among 600 girls, does not permit jewellery other than wristwatches and ear studs.
Mountfield cited a House of Lords decision 25 years ago — which was never challenged — that a Sikh boy was subjected to indirect racial discrimination when he was told he could attend school only if he cut his hair and stopped wearing a turban.
Justice Silber said the only issue seemed to be whether Sarika was actually obliged by her religion to wear the kara. Mountfield said it would not be right for a secular court to try to decide such an issue. The fact was Sarika regarded herself as being under an obligation. The question was whether it was more disadvantageous to her to be told to remove the kara than it would be for another pupil to be told to remove a bangle.