July 22, 2014 (New York, NY) – A court in Queens, New York dismissed a criminal summons last week that was issued to a Sikh for carrying a kirpan. The Sikh received the criminal summons because he carried two kirpans into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
On May 3, 2014, the New York City Port Authority Police Department issued a criminal summons to Mr. Maninder Singh for carrying two kirpans through an airport security checkpoint.. The summons charged Mr. Singh with violating New York City Administrative Code § 10-133, which prohibits the carrying of knives with blade lengths of 4 inches or more. The law carries with it a $300 maximum fine and/or imprisonment of up to fifteen days.
On July 16, 2014, the Sikh Coalition’s staff attorney, Gurjot Kaur, represented Mr. Singh during a hearing at Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens, NY. Ms. Kaur explained the religious significance of Mr. Singh’s kirpans and the peaceful and benign nature of his religious practice. She also argued that the law in question provides many secular and recreational exemptions, including exemptions for individuals who carry knives for fishing, hunting, and camping purposes, and for members of the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.
Gurjot Kaur also argued that the law should provide an exemption to Sikhs who carry kirpans as part of their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion. Ms. Kaur explained that under a similar case in 1987, People of the State of New York v. Partab Singh, the court had dismissed all criminal kirpan charges against the Sikh defendant. The Queens Court agreed with the reasoning and dismissed all criminal charges against Mr. Maninder Singh.
As always, we encourage all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. However, please remember that Sikhs are not allowed to carry kirpans on airplanes and through TSA checkpoints. If you carry a kirpan, it must be checked in with your luggage. If you are issued a summons or are arrested for carrying a kirpan, either at the airport or anywhere else, please contact the Sikh Coalition immediately at email@example.com.