The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beard trouble for minority constable

Behrampore, Sept. 12: Muhammad Akram Ali Sheikh, a constable at Hariharpara police station in Murshidabad district, has been suspended for growing beard.

Additional superintendent of police Shankar Singh felt Akram was disregarding discipline and defied orders to shave or trim his flowing beard.

The constable performed Haj in 1996 and since then, kept beard according to Islamic tradition.

Superintendent of police Virendra said Akram was suspended by Singh on September 5 for refusing to shave his beard. “I have issued a showcause notice asking for an explanation on why he has defied the order from his superior. He pleaded not guilty claiming that growing a long beard is a religious compulsion for Haj-returned pilgrims,” Virendra said.

The suspension order was issued to Akram under rule 684(A) of the Police Regulation of Bengal, 1943.

Akram, a resident of Dhubi village in the Nakashipara area of Nadia district, joined the state police in 1979. During his posting as a constable at Sealdah Government Railway Police, he sought permission to perform Haj.

Then superintendent of railway police Joydev Chakraborty allowed him to visit Mecca and sanctioned two months’ leave.

Akram started growing the beard on his return from the pilgrimage in 1996. He even renewed the picture on his official identity card with his bearded look.

Akram worked with the GRP at Krishnagar in Nadia before joining the Hariharpara police station on July 18 this year. During the past eight years of his police service, no one had objected to his beard.

“I have served the police force under three senior IPS officers — Joydev Chakraborty, Harman Preet Singh and Gangeswar Singh. None of them asked me to shave off my beard. Instead, they gave good conduct certificates to me for my hard and sincere work,” Akram said.

His trouble started when Shankar Singh called him for an interview soon after joining Hariharpara police station. Shankar objected to the long beard and asked him to seek a written permission from the superintendent. Akram sent an application to Virendra on July 30 seeking permission to retain the beard. While he was waiting for a reply, Shankar Singh again summoned Akram on September 3 and asked him to shave off his beard in 24 hours. As Akram declined, he was dropped.

“I am not a legal expert. But I know that the (police) rules and regulations were formed by the British rulers in 1943. We now live in Independent India and our Constitution guarantees religious rights for all citizens,” Akram said.

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