Aus court overturns law banning Sikhs from carrying kirpans in schools

Melbourne: A court in Australia’s Queensland state has overturned a law that banned Sikh students to wear a kirpan, a religious article in Sikhism, on campus, calling the legislation “unconstitutional”, according to media reports.

The ruling by the state’s highest court came after Kamaljit Kaur Athwal took the state government to court last year, claiming that the ban discriminated against the kirpan — one of five religious symbols that Sikhs are supposed to carry at all times as part of their faith, reported.

Sikhs are required to wear a kirpan as part of their religious uniform as prescribed by their code of conduct. It’s one of five religious symbols they carry at all times as part of their faith.

The Queensland Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that “the ban is unconstitutional under the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA),” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

An initial court ruling dismissed the claim the act was discriminatory but now after an appeal, there has been a win for the Sikh faith.

Bill Potts from Potts Lawyers Queensland said the original legislation meant Sikhs “were not able to go to school, not able to go to effectively carry out their religion”.

Potts said the overturning of the law is giving freedom back to those practising the faith and is a “great step forward”.

“This just simply means that they have the same freedoms that everybody else has and are not discriminated against by the state legislation,” he said.

“Carrying a kirpan as a symbol of a religious commitment would, at least ordinarily, constitute a use of the knife for a lawful purpose – namely, religious observance,” the court found.

“To say that both Sikhs and non-Sikhs cannot practise their religion while wearing a knife ignores the fact that carrying a knife is only a feature of the religious observance of Sikhs.”

“A law which prohibits a person from carrying a knife in a school for religious purposes impacts on Sikhs by preventing them from lawfully entering schools while adhering to their religious beliefs.