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HindustanTimes Sat,20 Dec 2014

World

Australia court absolves Sikh man of traffic violation charges
PTI
Melbourne, March 28, 2013
First Published: 10:11 IST(28/3/2013)
Last Updated: 12:07 IST(28/3/2013)

A Sikh man, who was penalised by the Australian police for not wearing helmet while riding bike, has been absolved of the charges by a Queensland court, which also pulled up the traffic authorities for the decision.

"How on earth is going to get a bike (rider) a helmet over his turban?" Magistrate Stuart Shearer of the local court was quoted as saying in media reports.

23-year-old Jasdeep Atwal was imposed a fine of 100 dollars last year and was facing conviction on charges of violating traffic norms, but the court on Wednesday announced its decision to exempt him of any fine, an ABC report said.

According to the report, Atwal told the court he had only ever taken off his turban to sleep or wash his hair.

"The law indirectly discriminates against Sikhs from riding bicycles because essentially we cannot wear a helmet," Atwal said.

"It's (the court) absolved me of all the charges, I've got no fines to pay and no demerit  points on my licence. This is a bit of a landmark which we will be able to use in our lobbying in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, media reports said that the latest verdict could potentially prompt Queensland police to revise their transport policy.

Currently the only exception to the rule under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management, Road Rules) Regulation 2009 is if cyclists have a medical certificate.

Kurt Fowler, an expert in the fields of criminal and traffic defence law, said this case will potentially require Queensland police to revise their policy in this area.

"What's happened is the court has found him (Atwal) guilty, but have not upheld any penalty, which is a sign that it wasn't a proper prosecution. This usually happens when a magistrate is forced to hear a case for hours that they think is a waste of time," he said.


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