Queensland Supreme Court has overturned a law banning Sikh ceremonial or religious daggers on school premises.
The court found that banning Sikh religious symbols will amount to racial discrimination under the Racial Discrimination Act.
Earlier, Queensland had introduced a law allowing Sikhs to carry a Kirpan but soon barred it from carrying it inside schools.
Kamaljit Kaur Athwal decided to take the Queensland government to court over claims that the Weapons Act was discriminatory.
The court initially dismissed Kamaljit’s claim that the Weapons Act was discriminatory. However, after an appeal, the court noted that the legislation was “inconsistent”:
“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. 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.”
The three judges in the Court of Appeal further added:
“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. No other group finds their freedom of religion or freedom of movement limited in that way.”
Queensland’s police minister, Mark Ryan, told the Guardian:
“We’ll have a look at it. The conversation, I think, needs to be with the Commonwealth government. So obviously, when I next see the commonwealth attorney general, I’ll mention Queensland’s position and our good work around trying to reduce knife crime and the efforts that we’ve done to do that.”
Two years ago in a New South Wales school, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed twice by a 14-year-old with a Kirpan. Based on this incident, the NSW government too has banned all students from carrying knives to schools. However, this ban was soon lifted after community outrage and due consultation processes.