What is tattoo policy in Indian Armed Forces?

If you have a permanent tattoo on your body, forget about getting into Defense Forces. Sounds strange, right? Yes. Tattoos are generally accepted in our society but the Selection committee for Defense Forces does not accept them. This is the tattoo policy in Indian Armed Forces. Some argue that why it is so when having a tattoo does not affect operational efficiency? Right, it doesn’t and there are no proofs regarding it. But the policy is policy and is not going to change.

Why is it not going to change?

Because recently in a case the judge ruled the case in favor of policy saying that it is the right of the selection committee to decide the acceptability or unacceptability of the individual. It was a case of cancellation of appointment of an airman in Indian Air Force because he had a tattoo on the external side of his forearm. So, the tattoo policy in Indian Armed Forces rules allow no permanent tattoos.

But what is the reason?

The reason is that permanent tattoos are believed to carry deadly skin diseases like skin cancer. These tattoos aka skin hazards, at a later stage, can result in serious infections, blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis A and B, allergy, HIV, etc.

Candidates while getting a tattoo do not give much consideration to the needle or hygiene. Some untrained tattoo artists, who are ignorant of the fact, may use unhygienic needles which can become problematic later, as told by an Officer. HIV tests are very expensive and Defense can’t waste money on such tests. It is more feasible to not recruit candidates with tattoos. Defense does not take any risks to its man, or equipment.

So no tattoo at all? Any exceptions?

Well, Exceptions are always there. Subject to doctor certification, there can be permanent tattoos on the backside of the palm and inner part of the forearm from elbow to wrist. No tattoos on legs, neck or other parts. It can be a religious symbol or a name and nothing else.
The candidates who belong to the tribal area have one more relaxation. Permanent tattoos on any part of the body are allowed to those who belong to tribal communities/ tribal areas, as declared by Government of India under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders Act/ Lists (amended and modified from time to time). The tattoos must be according to the tribe’s custom and tradition to which the candidate belongs. He has to submit a certificate of belonging to the tribe and it should be mentioned in his call letter.

Then only he can go ahead with the selection process at SSB.
All the candidates have to submit a photograph of the permanent tattoo specifying size and type of tattoo. Then Selection Board can decide the acceptability or unacceptability of tattoo.

I hope this article will give you clarity on the tattoo policy in Indian Armed Forces.


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