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Pune residents against scarf ban

They failed to make people wear helmets even after the Bombay High Court made it compulsory in 2004. That, however, has not discouraged the Pune police from banning people from covering their faces with scarves in public places.

mumbai Updated: Feb 23, 2010 01:18 IST
Yogesh Joshi/Urvi Mahajani

They failed to make people wear helmets even after the Bombay High Court made it compulsory in 2004.

That, however, has not discouraged the Pune police from banning people from covering their faces with scarves in public places.

The order banning scarves was issued on Saturday and came into effect on Monday. The police imposed the ban following the February 13 blast at German Bakery in Koregaon Park.

“If a scarf can hide a person’s identity, so can helmets,” said Vivek Velankar, social activist and member of Sajag Nagrik Manch. “The latest move by the police sounds illogical as we can’t assume that terrorists can come only on two-wheelers and not in cars.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Manoj Patil, has an explanation. “With helmets, one can observe the features of a person. But scarves often cover the entire face leaving no room to see any features,” Patil said.

After a series of accidents in January, Patil had ordered his staff to use helmets while riding two-wheelers. But his men failed to obey him.

The order has left the public furious. “Instead of focusing on scarves the police should look into the strict implementation of wearing helmets because it saves lives,” said management professional, Soumo Chattopadhyay.

A law student from Pune had approached the high court in 2004 pleading that the use of helmets be made compulsory. However, after the court ruled in favour of helmets, there was widespread opposition in the city and people even took to the streets against the order.

Ban is absurd, say legal experts

Absurd and violative of fundamental rights.

This is how legal experts described the ban on scarves announced by Pune’s Commissioner of Police, Satyapal Singh.

Following the February 13 blast at German Bakery, the Pune police have prohibited the use of scarves while riding two-wheelers. “This is ridiculous,” said senior counsel Ashok Mundargi. “You cannot pass such an order even in the name of security.

Mundargi said police should look out for people moving around suspiciously and check their identity. “But imposing such a ban is uncalled for.”

Advocate Sayaji Nagre said that the ban will not help because “a terrorist is not going to move around on a two-wheeler wearing a scarf”. “If you ban scarf, a person will have to wear a helmet which covers the face completely. So how is that going to help the police catch terrorists?” Nagre asked. The Motor Vehicles Act advocates wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike.

Pune-based high court lawyer, Asim Sarode, termed the diktat “irrational and baseless”. “This amounts to violating the fundamental right to protection. A person has the right to protect himself or herself against sun and dust in a manner that he or she likes,” said Sarode.

He said such bans cannot stop terrorism. “This is just another way of harassing the public.”

A section of lawyers tried to justify the order stating that the commissioner of police has wide powers under the Bombay Police Act. “But it cannot be in contravention of fundamental rights and the Constitution,” said Sarode.

Q & A Manoj Patil

‘If they use scarves, we’ll fine them’

As Puneites react, calling the police’s ban on scarves absurd, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Manoj Patil tells Yogesh Joshi that the police are serious about it.

How is the response to your ban on wearing scarves in public?

We expect a good response to our appeal from the people.

What is the penalty?

We have intimated people about the ban through the media. We will warn them and if they insist on using scarves to cover faces, we will fine them. Our action will start from Tuesday.

Is there any provision in the law to fine people for such things?

Yes. Under Section 68 and 140 of Bombay Police Act, the police can take action. We will start with the fine of Rs 50.

If you are talking about covering faces, then helmets also, in some way, cover the face. So, are you also banning the use of helmets?

In helmets, one can observe the features of the person. But scarves often cover the entire face.