Should all women riders wear helmet? High court to decide | punjab$chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Should all women riders wear helmet? High court to decide

Issue brought to light after a Sikh woman was hurt in a mishap in Sector 22 last month.

punjab Updated: Dec 07, 2017 15:30 IST
HT Correspondent
While Punjab and Haryana exempts a turbaned Sikh and Sikh women from wearing helmet, in Chandigarh besides turbaned Sikhs all women are exempted.
While Punjab and Haryana exempts a turbaned Sikh and Sikh women from wearing helmet, in Chandigarh besides turbaned Sikhs all women are exempted.(HT File)

With a spate in cases of women two-wheeler riders sustaining head injuries, in many cases fatal, in road accidents, the Punjab and Haryana high court has once again decided to rule whether wearing of helmet should be made mandatory for women.

This time the issue has been brought to light after an accident in Sector 22 on November 3, in which a 22-year-old Sikh woman from Sector 23, who was not wearing a headgear, was seriously injured on being hit by a Haryana Roadways bus.

“On the road, no one can discriminate between a man and woman. Accident is accident,” stated a letter written by a law researcher at the high court, Anil Saini, on the basis of which the court has taken suo motu note of the issue.

“In recent past, so many major accidents have taken place where women were riding two-wheelers without wearing headgear. It is the need of the hour that for safety and to avoid injuries in accidents, wearing headgear should be made mandatory for women, except those wearing turban, irrespective of religion.”

The court has now appointed Saini the amicus curiae and sought responses from home and transport secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and UT administration by January 11.

In support

According to a 2014 study conducted by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), only 4.8% accident victims wearing helmets sustained severe head injuries as compared to 23.7% in case of those not wearing helmets.

The study had advocated making helmet compulsory for two-wheeler riders “irrespective of sex and religion”. In this study, 1,545 people (1,314 male and 231 female), who were admitted to the PGIMER after accidents, were studied over a period of nine months.

The opposition

The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, also makes headgear compulsory for all who are riding a motorcycle of any class or description in a public place.

Only a Sikh wearing turban is exempted. However, the Act grants permission to state governments to make relaxation to some other categories. It is under these rules that women have been exempted from wearing headgear in many states.

It was in 1998 that the Punjab and Haryana high court had restricted the exemption only to “Sikhs wearing turban while driving”. However, it met with resistance from Sikh bodies, who argued that their tenets forbid the wearing of any cap.

Hardeep Singh, a Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) member, said the issue has been settled by courts several times. “Sikh women should be exempted on account of faith,” he said.

In 2004, the Supreme Court too ruled that state had powers to relax rules in a particular area. Following this, Chandigarh relaxed the norms, excluding all women, while Punjab and Haryana excluded only Sikh women.