Court ruled: Sikhs cannot drive motorcycles without helmets.
Judge dismiss a challenge
of NRI Sikh Baljinder Singh Badesha
Toronto, March 13, 2008
Dr. Satbir Singh
Judge James Blacklock of Ontario Court has ruled
that Sikhs in Ontario province cannot drive motorcycles without
helmets. Judge gave his ruling, dismissing a challenge by NRI
Sikh Baljinder Singh Badesha who was fined $110 in 2005 for driving
his motorcycle without a helmet.
The 35 pages judgment was also distributed to the
media before the judge's ruling. The judge said:
- The evidence before me shows that to ride a motorcycle helmetless
involves the imposition of significant extra risks related to
- The Highway Traffic Act allowed no "accommodation"
in Badesha's case as helmets saved lives in highway crashes.
- Allowing motorcyclists to drive without helmets posed undue
hardship for the authorities to ensure safety on roads
- Mr. Badesha must pay the $110 ticket amount within a month
Badesha has 15 days to appeal Blacklock's decision.
Badesha said he would like the Ontario legislature to consider
changing the policy and allow Sikhs to wear their turbans on motorcycles.
To media people outside the courthouse, Badesha
said he need some time to decide whether to appeal. He laughed
about the decision and said he was "okay" with it
law really discriminates against Sikhs driving motorcycle in Ontario
Toronto, Feb., 20, 2008
Dr. Satbir Singh
NRI Baljinder Badesha, 39, was was charged
in 2005, when he drove Honda Shadow around 110 kilometers an hour.
He is a father of four children who immigrated to Canada in 1989.
India, Hong Kong and Britain allow Sikhs to wear their turbans
on motorcycles. Sikhs had already got exemptions in British Columbia
Mr. Badesha's lawyer, Mel Sokosky said:
- His client is far too religious to consider compromising
his beliefs. This is a matter of primary importance to Mr. Badesha
- Mr. Badesha's desire is not a trivial pursuit. This is not
a game he is playing. He isn't here to waste the court's time.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission's lawyer Owen Rees
- Obliged to wear turbans outside the home, devout Sikhs who
want to ride motorcycles are effectively forbidden from a "normal
social activity available to all other Ontarians
- What the state is saying to Mr. Badesha is you have to choose
between your religious beliefs or (abstain) in order to ride
- The helmet requirement under the province's Highway Traffic
Act "discriminates" against Badesha because it violates
his constitutional rights
The human rights commission maintain the helmet law discriminates
against Sikhs because their religion obliges them to cover their
long hair with nothing more than a turban.
Scott Hutchison, who also represents the commission, argued the
seatbelt law makes exemptions for disabled people who cannot wear
them but still need to drive.
Mr. Badesha said:
- My religion says we cannot put anything over our turban.
- I like to ride the motorcycles, so that's why we fight the
- I have not ridden my motorcycle since I was ticketed in 2005,
played down the risks involved in riding helmet-free.
- Who cares?. Everybody ends up dead anyway. People die in cars
too. In life, you have to take risks, no matter what.
Keep in mind, these turbaned Sikhs fought in the two world wars
against fascism sporting those turbans and they always welcomed
to wear turbans. Sikh soldiers have never worn helmets, and argued
that Sikhs should be left alone to make their own decisions about
Crown lawyer Michael Dunn said:
- They did not contest Badesha's religious beliefs, they remained
un swayed by the argument that denying non-helmeted riders access
to motorcycles violates the Constitution.
- Riding a motorcycle, that is significantly different than
the interests that have been found to be viola ted... in other
General accidents can cost the public purse up
to $2.4 million, while medical treatment for traumatic brain injuries
fatal crashes can cost almost $20 million.
Ontario Court Judge James Blacklock was told yesterday that,
in order to disprove a Crown theory that turbans unravel at high
speed and cause accidents,
According to the local news paper, Mr. Hutchison said the Cayuga
turban test became necessary after the Crown declared that an
expert it had hired proved that turbans unravel rapidly in 100
km/h winds.The Crown's test had been carried out by a professional
engineer who purchased a mannequin head, mounted it on a stick
and then placed the assemblage in a wind tunnel. However, Mr.
Hutchison was unable to find a documented case anywhere in the
world where a Sikh motorcyclist's turban had unraveled. Skeptical,
he persuaded the OHRC to authorize its own test. After he confronted
the Crown with the dramatically different test result, prosecutors
conceded that their engineer had grossly miscalculated the force
of the wind he had generated to batter the imitation head, Mr.
Mr. Badesha drove around Cayuga Speedway at 110 kilometers an
hour. He did laps at 110 km/h to prove turban held tight