German court: Sikhs have to wear helmets on motorbikes

Wearing a helmet does not infringe on Sikhs’ freedom of worship, a top German court has ruled. It argued that the measure protects the motorcyclist as well as other drivers and must therefore be enforced.

Motorcyclists must wear a helmet and cannot be exempted from the rule on religious grounds, one of Germany’s top five courts has ruled.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig rejected a Sikh man’s appeal, who had argued that the helmet would not fit over his turban.

“People wearing a turban onĀ religious grounds are not for that reasonĀ alone exempt from the obligation to wear a helmet,” the presiding judge, Renate Philipp, said, adding that the claimant has to accept this restriction to his freedom of religion, as it serves to uphold the rights of others, too.

A so-called dastaar has traditionally been mandatory for all male Sikhs although women can also choose to wear one. It represents honor, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety.

Motorcycle not essential

Thursday’s ruling backed a verdict from a lower court in the southern city of Constance, which had found that driving a motorcycle was not essential for the claimant, as he also had access to a car and a delivery van.

The Leipzig court argued that the obligation to wear a helmet not only protects the driver but also keeps other drivers from being traumatized if they cause heavy injury to someone driving without a helmet.

The court also said a driver wearing a helmet would be better placed to help others in case of an accident.

In the UK as well as several provinces in Canada, Sikhs are exempt from wearing helmets on motorcycles or hard hats on building sites.

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