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Helmet holiday to end for Delhi women

New Delhi, April 25: Delhi High Court today ordered that helmets be made compulsory within two months for all women riding a two-wheeler in the capital.

The order was passed after hearing a PIL that challenged a provision in the Delhi Motor Vehicles Rules that made the helmet rule optional for women.

The court asked the Delhi government to make appropriate amendments to make the rule compulsory within the two-month time frame. The Sheila Dikshit government agreed.

The Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 states that every person driving or riding a two-wheeler must wear a helmet but exempts Sikhs who wear turbans from the rule.

Following demands from Sikh women, the Delhi government in 1999 exempted all women from wearing helmets. Officials explained that the exemption was granted to all women because it was not possible to verify by appearance who was a Sikh and who wasn’t.

But Ulhas PR, a documentary filmmaker who filed the PIL, argued that such dichotomy was a violation of the central act. “According to Section 29 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, wearing a helmet is mandatory for all. Therefore, the Delhi government did not have any jurisdiction or justification to make it optional under Delhi Motor Vehicles Rules,” said R.K. Kapoor, the counsel for the petitioner.

He added that there should be a uniform law for all people, irrespective of their caste, creed, gender and religion.

A division bench of acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw granted two months’ time for amendments to be made to the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules.

A senior IPS officer attached to the traffic wing of Delhi police welcomed the order. He pointed out that on an average, over 100 women die in accidents while riding or driving two-wheelers every year.

The sight of a family of four or five squeezed on a bike is not uncommon on the capital’s roads. Rash and drunk driving, which endangers two-wheelers riders more, is also a regular affair. “If women start wearing helmets, it will make them safe and bring down casualties,” the official said.

Other police officers said they had requested women several times in the past to use helmets, insisting that safety concerns should override all other factors.

An officer said the government should also organise awareness campaigns on the helmets-for-all rule.