LEGAL action has been filed against the Office of the Attorney General by a special reserve Woman Police Constable (WPC) who claims that her Constitutional rights to freedom of religious belief and observance had been infringed after her request to the Police Commissioner to wear a hijab along with her police uniform was denied.
Now, in addition to her attempt to have the court rule that her rights are being violated, the officer, Sharon Roop, is seeking another declaration that the Police Service Regulations, 2007, is also unconstitutional, invalid and null and void since it makes no provision for the wearing of hijabs. Instead, insofar as it deals with head coverings, female officers are mandated to wear only regulation dark blue caps, white helmets or peak caps, she said in her claim form.
According to the claim which was filed in the San Fernando High Court, Roop's inability to wear her hijab while on duty has caused her great stress and anxiety.
“She has been placed in the unenviable position of having to choose between keeping her job and disobeying the teachings of her chosen religion. She believes that her spirituality is being negatively impacted and that she is committing a sin, for which she will have to answer and seek the mercy of Almighty Allah,” the claim states.
Roop, who is being represented by Senior Counsel Anand Ramlogan, had been a member of the police service since 2009 and even though she was always a practising Muslim, she was never aware of the significance and importance of wearing a hijab until 2014 when she took Shahada, the Islamic equivalent of Baptism.
The claim went on to state that after being taught of its importance, Roop began wearing the hijab and raised the issue with her superiors in the police service in an effort to facilitate her observance of this religious practice whilst on duty and dressed in the police uniform. She even wrote to the Police Commisioner on September 30, 2015, seeking permission to wear the hijab with her police uniform, but there was no response.
It further stated that in June of this year, attorney Ganesh Saroop sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Solicitor General, the Minister of National Security and the Commissioner of Police highlighting the infringement of the Claimant's constitutional right and requesting that the necessary steps be taken to amend the Regulations in order to remedy this breach.
NOTE: You can read more on this story in Thursday's edition of the Trinidad Express.