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Sikh’s case goes to appeal

Shaminder Puri appealed against the decision of the first-instance court given in the case against the Polish Border Guard Service. Mr Puri, a British Sikh, filed a suit seeking protection of his personal interests reportedly violated by Border Guard officers ordering him to remove his turban during security checks performed at Okęcie Airport in Warsaw.

In December 2011 the Circuit Court in Warsaw dismissed all Mr Puri’s claims. In the statement of reasons attached to the judgement, the Court admitted that Mr Puri’s interests had been indeed infringed but said that the infringement had not been illegal. According to the Court, the Border Guard officers who asked the Sikh to remove his turban during security checks acted within their legal powers. The Court held that the only way to assure that a person does not carry unauthorised items in his or her headwear was to remove such piece of clothing and check it manually.

In the appeal, counsel for the appellant argues that the safety of other passengers does not require removal of Mr Puri’s turban at each security check. This was confirmed by the fact that during a number of security checks carried out at Okęcie Airport Shaminder Puri was not asked to take off his turban. According to Mr Puri’s attorney, the appellant was not subjected to only necessary and the least burdensome control measures respectful of his religious beliefs and culture.

The appeal is supported by a substantial body of evidence, including detailed airport security guidelines regarding screening of ritual headwear applied elsewhere in Europe. This evidence is to rebuke the first-instance court’s contention that Mr Puri must have been ordered to remove his turban also outside Poland, which, in fact, has never happened.

The appeal was drafted by Ms Zuzanna Rudzińska, an advocate with Wardyński i Wspólnicy, the pro bono counsel for Mr Puri.

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