Sikh in court for not wearing bike helmet

By Michele Tydd
Updated November 5 2012 - 10:21am, first published July 16 2009 - 2:27am
Nerendra Jeet Singh, who refuses to wear a bike helmet, leaves court yesterday after arguing his case on religious grounds. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Nerendra Jeet Singh scored a victory for his religion yesterday when he escaped penalty in Wollongong Local Court for riding a bike without a helmet.While grateful for the leniency, he told Magistrate Paul Johnson he would continue to flout the law until he was given exemption on religious grounds."As a Sikh from India I wear a turban so it's practically impossible to wear a helmet," he said.Mr Singh, a 23-year-old engineering student from the University of Wollongong, appeared in court to fight a $56 fine for not wearing a helmet on March 27 at Keiraville."I consider the turban to be part of my identity and I might compromise my faith if I were to wear a helmet," he explained.He sought an exemption similar to the ones which exist for Sikhs in Canada and the United Kingdom, but Mr Johnson told him that was not within his power."I should tell you about a young fellow in Dubbo I heard about at a recent conference who accrued $16,000 in unpaid fines for not wearing a helmet," Mr Johnson said.He found the offence proved but dismissed it, warning that it was important for Singh to make inquiries about an exemption on religious grounds.Outside the court, Mr Singh said he had been riding a bike without a helmet since he arrived in Australia 18 months ago and had never before been fined.He said he was aware of the safety issues involved, but his wish to honour his faith was stronger."Even in World War I and II, Sikhs fought on the British side but they never wore any helmets, even in raining bullets," he said.Mr Singh said he would take the magistrate's advice about seeking information on the exemption and if none existed would move to have one introduced. A Roads and Traffic Authority spokesperson said exemptions for wearing helmets did not exist in NSW."Wearing a secure helmet reduces the risk of brain or head injury by up to 60 per cent in the event of a crash," the spokesperson said.

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