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Expatriate driving ban ruled unconstitutional in Bahrain

Manama : The controversial Article 20 in Bahrain’s draft traffic law that bars expatriates from driving in the country has been ruled “unconstitutional” by the Constitutional Court here, a media report said Thursday.

In its landmark ruling, the court, chaired by its President Shaikh Khalifa bin Rashid Al Khalifa, said the article was not in compliance with provisions of the constitution, Gulf Daily News reported.

The Bahraini parliament first introduced the article into the draft traffic law with MPs refusing to omit it as they claimed that most traffic offences were committed by expatriates.

During a session in May, Bahrain’s Shura council, the parliament’s second chamber, approved the disputed Article 20 that bars expatriates from driving unless their job required it.

The Shura council also approved it because they did not want the entire 64-article law to be shelved.

However, a plea was sent to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah to refer the offending article to the Constitutional Court to ensure that it was not a “breach of the constitution”.

The king, through a royal order, referred the plea to the court June 25.

Bahrain’s parliament had approved a draft legislation — as part of a draft traffic law — which states that “resident expatriates living in Bahrain of non-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nationality are not allowed to get a driving licence for a car or machine vehicle unless the nature of his/her job requires it”.

Bahrain is home to around 290,000 expatriate Indians.

Last month, Bahrain’s State Information Minister Sameera Rajab stated that the constitutionality of the new controversial draft legislation in Bahrain was “questionable”.