Bombay HC grants relief to CAPF job applicant having tattoo on ‘saluting’ arm

Bar & Bench

Omkar Gokhale

The Bombay High Court recently gave relief to a candidate applying for a job at the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), after he was turned down for having a tattoo on his ‘saluting’ arm.

A Division Bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre directed CAPF to permit the candidate to participate in the interview round. The Court observed that the placement of the tattoo on his right forearm is such that it will not be visible while saluting.

The petitioner Ravikumar Karad had applied for the post of Assistant Commandant with CAPF. The medical board of CAPF declared Karad unfit to appear for the interview round on account of the tattoo on his forearm, which reads ‘Aai’ (Marathi for mother).

While he cleared the written and physical efficiency tests, he was sent for medical examination on March 6 and was declared unfit on two grounds: being overweight by 6.5 kilograms, and on account of the tattoo on right arm.

Later, Karad applied for a review medical examination after shedding the excess weight and approaching a plastic surgeon to remove the tattoo. When he was referred to the medical board appointed by CAPF, he was declared unfit due to ‘tattoo on right arm – 2 cm’.

This prompted him to approach the Bombay High Court.

Advocate DA Dube, counsel for the respondent authority, argued that the tattoo on the right saluting arm of the candidate is not permissible under the rules. He also contended that the tattoo cannot be used for any kind of promotion.

Advocates SP Kadam and Sneha Bhange, lawyers for Karad, argued that the word ‘Aai’ doesn’t promote anything, and that it also falls within the ambit of religious symbols permitted under the rules. They argued that the tattoo is on Karad’s right upper-arm, where it would be hidden under his uniform sleeves while saluting.

The Court was also told that Karad has already undergone laser treatment for removal of the tattoo and that it was removed to the extent of 90 per cent. It will require a couple more sessions to be removed completely, they told the Court. They ultimately sought relief for Karad to be allowed to appear for the interview.

CAPF tattoo rules

According to the job advertisement issued by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which conducts the exams for CAPF, the tattoo is permitted on traditional sites of the body like the inner aspect of the left forearm.

The advertisement further states that the tattoo on left arm is allowed as it is a non-saluting limb. The size of the tattoo must be less than one-fourth of the particular part (elbow or hand) of the body.

The rules further state that being a secular country, the religious sentiments of our countrymen are to be respected. Thus, tattoos depicting religious symbols or figures, as followed in Indian Army, are to be permitted.

What Bombay High Court held

After perusing a photograph of the right arm of the petitioner, the Court said,

“The tattoo of the petitioner is on the saluting right arm.  But as per our understanding, the placement of the tattoo of the petitioner is such that it is not apparently visible and we do not think as to how it would come within the prescribed portion, since it would be easily concealed in sleeves of the uniform.” 

The Court further remarked,

“The contention of the respondent authority is that it should not be on the hand which is used for saluting and the rationale is, it is not apparently visible while saluting.” 

The Court finally granted relief to the candidate and allowed him to appear for the interview round. It also asked the CAPF to file an affidavit showing in detail how the placement of the tattoo of the candidate would come in the restricted part of the body.

Read the order:

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