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Complaint in cassation in Sikh’s case

The Supreme Court will hear the case of Shaminder Puri, a Sikh who was forced to remove his turban during a security check at the Warsaw Okęcie airport. Mr Puri seeks legal redress for the alleged violation of his personal interests.

In September 2010, Mr Puri brought an action in a Circuit Court, alleging that the way in which the security check was performed violated his dignity, good name, and freedom of conscience, denomination and religion. For Sikhs, the public removal of a turban is an insult.

Apart from a public apology from the airport officials and the award of PLN 30,000 for charitable purposes, Shaminder Puri requested an injunction ordering the airport security personnel to perform further checks in a non-humiliating manner. In 2011 the Circuit Court in Warsaw ruled that Mr Puri’s personal interests had been indeed violated but said the violation had been legal. The Court held that the Border Guard officers who asked the Sikh to remove his turban during security checks had acted within their legal powers.

The Sikh appealed against the judgment, arguing that a removal of his turban at each security check is not required to ensure safety at the airport. He pointed to a number of checks he underwent without being asked to remove his headwear. This, according to Mr Puri, leads to a conclusion that the Border Guard officers did not limited the measures used to those which were necessary and least uncomfortable for the passenger with a distinctive cultural and religious background. However, in 2013 the Court of Appeal agreed with the first instance court and dismissed the appeal.

In July 2013, the attorneys of Mr Puri filed a complaint in cassation which argued that the lower courts erred in their failure to review the proportionality of the acts of the airport security staff, even though they established that the acts had violated the claimant’s personal interests. In their preliminary submission, Mr Puri’s counsel emphasise the importance of the judicial power to review the proportionality of authoritative competences exercised by public authorities vis-a-vis citizens, the measure which the Court of Appeal refused to acknowledge.

“Civil courts should be able to examine whether or not public bodies disproportionately violate personal interests of individuals as this issue is crucial for upholding the rule of law and protecting human rights”, says Karolina Rusiłowicz, HFHR’s lawyer.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the case was admissible, recognising an important legal issue which requires further deliberation. The country’s highest Court will hear the case in an open session. The hearing date is expected to be given at the end of May.

Shaminder Puri is represented pro bono by Ms Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz and Mr Janusz Tomczak, advocates of Wardyński i Wspólnicy.

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