a1 Barrister, Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln
a2 Barrister, Deputy Chancellor of the Dioceses of Chichester and Norwich
a3 Rector of Girton, Ely Diocesan Ecumenical Officer
Singh, a Sikh schoolgirl, applied for judicial review of her school's refusal to allow her to wear a religious steel bangle (the Kara) at school on the basis that it contravened the school's uniform policy with respect to the wearing of jewellery. Singh's request for an exemption from the uniform policy in this regard was refused. Singh had been segregated from other pupils and ultimately told that she would only be permitted to attend the school if she did not wear the Kara. She claimed that these actions amounted to indirect discrimination on grounds of race under the Race Relations Act 1976, and on grounds of religion under the Equality Act 2006. The Court held that the school's refusal to depart from its uniform policy and allow Singh to wear the Kara amounted to indirect discrimination on grounds of race and on grounds of religion. It was held that Singh had suffered a detriment or disadvantage in that she had been forbidden from wearing an item that she genuinely believed, for reasonable grounds, was a matter of exceptional importance for her racial identity or religious belief. The wearing of the Kara could be shown objectively to be of exceptional importance to her religion or race, even though the wearing of that item was not an actual requirement of her religion. The Court held that the school had failed to justify the discrimination. The cases of R (on the application of X) v Y School1 and R (on the application of Begum) v Denbigh High School2 were distinguished, in that the niqab and jilbab in those cases were far more visible to the observer than the small and unostentatious Kara, which was only 5 mm wide. [RA]
1  EWHC 298,  1 All ER 249
2  UKHL 15,  1 AC 100.