Bearded police win battle with Interior Ministry

Police officers asserting their right to grow facial hair received a victory Wednesday, when the Supreme Administrative Court turned down the interior minister's challenge to a previous court ruling ordering the dismissed officers reinstated.  

In March, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim demoted 17 police officers for growing their beards in violation of ministry rules related to officer appearance. The officers alleged dozens of other policemen had been suspended for the same reason and the group filed a lawsuit challenging the decision.

The court's advisory panel, the State Commissioners Authority, had supported a final ruling granting policemen the right to grow their beards, affirming the previous Alexandria Administrative Court ruling to that effect.

The interior minister had challenged the Alexandria court ruling, saying personnel disciplinary measures are the purview of ministry committees and do not fall within the jurisdiction of administrative courts.

The commissioners' opinion said the Constitution protects personal freedoms and rights and that growing a beard is a religious practice. The act does not violate the law governing police forces, Law 109/1971, nor ministry regulations issued in 2012, or threaten public interest, according to the report prepared by Mohamed Hendawy, who is also vice president of the State Council.

The law allows the Interior Ministry mechanisms for disciplining officers who do not fulfill their duties, but growing a beard does not constitute a breach of duty or require punishment, the commissioners said.

The Administrative Court in Alexandria had said allowing officers to grow their beards would not threaten the public interest, undermine their work, or diminish people’s trust.

Administrative judiciary circuits in Beheira and Tanta also ruled against the Interior Ministry’s decision last year, while the Cairo Administrative Court upheld the disciplinary measures in July.

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