The Supreme Court in Australia’s Queensland state has overturned a law banning Sikh religious dagger (Kirpan) on school grounds calling it “unconstitutional”.
The ruling by the state’s highest court came after Kamaljit Kaur Athwal took the state government to court last year, claiming that the ban discriminated against the kirpan — one of five religious symbols that Sikhs are supposed to carry at all times as part of their faith.
Ruling in Athwal’s favour, the state’s highest court found the legislation to be unconstitutional under the Racial Discrimination Act, ABC News reported on Thursday.
An initial court ruling last year had dismissed the suggestion that the ban on carrying knives was discriminatory. But this week, three judges in the Court of Appeal found that a section of the Queensland Weapons Act of 1990 — which bans carrying knives in public places and schools — is inconsistent with Section 10 of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.
In response, the Queensland Education Department said it is considering the implications of the court decision. “As this legal decision has just been handed down, the department will now consider any implications.”
Athwal’s lawyer was cited as saying by the ABC News that the court had a difficult task “to balance the human rights of individuals to practice their religion and express their faith with the human rights of student and teacher safety”.
“Today marks the day that members of the Sikh faith can practice their faith and positively participate without discrimination as proud members of their local school communities,” the lawyer said, adding that her client is pleased with the court’s decision.