KOCHI: The Army's decision to dismiss a sepoy who refused to remove his beard on religious grounds has been upheld by the Kochi Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal. An application had been filed before the Tribunal by Maktumhusen challenging the order of his discharge from military service for refusing to remove his beard.
Maktumhusen had joined as Sepoy in Army Medical Corps in April, 2001 and was transferred to 371 Field Hospital in 2010. On his request, the Commanding Officer had granted him permission to grow beard on religious grounds. He was given directions to apply for fresh ID card imposing conditions that he had to give an undertaking in writing to keep the beard for remainder period of his service.
However, the permission was withdrawn later. The Tribunal said the Commanding Officer issued him charge sheet, imputing that despite repeated verbal and written instructions he had refused to remove his beard. He was tried on such charge, found guilty and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment in military custody.
He was then transferred to Command Hospital (SC) Pune. When he reported for joining duty, the Commanding Officer asked him to shave his beard overruling his submissions that he had been previously granted permission to grow beard and the pendency of a writ petition filed by him before the High Court questioning the withdrawal of the permission granted.
A preliminary inquiry was conducted in which findings were entered that he had misconducted himself by growing beard, defying the orders given for its removal. His misconduct was held to be unbecoming of a disciplined soldier, and hence he was to be treated as an undesirable soldier.
On the basis of the findings in the preliminary inquiry, he was discharged from service as an undesirable soldier under Rule 13(3)III (v) of the Army Rule 1954. The Tribunal, comprising Justice S S Satheeshchandran and Vice Admiral M P Muralidharan, has found that Maktumhusen, who belong to Dharward district of Karnataka, was initially granted permission to grow and keep beard but later it was withdrawn. "The applicant, despite being directed to remove his beard, continued to be adamant and declined to do so. He was rightly discharged from military service as undesirable soldier," the Tribunal ruled. After pronouncement of the order, the counsel for the applicant requested for leave to appeal in the Supreme Court.
The Tribunal said that "in our opinion, no question of law of general public importance is involved in the matter. Hence, leave requested for is refused."