Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth : Supreme Court on plea against CBSE dress code
Certain Islamic Organisations approached the Supreme Court of India citing that the Notification of AIPMT entrance exam by CBSE, barred the right of Muslim girls to wear Hijab, their customary religious dress. However the Court refused to entertain the plea saying that ”We will not interfere with these kind of small issue”. The counsel for the petitioner, sensing the inclination of Court in this issue, urged withdrawal of the petition, which was allowed.
The notification by CBSE on Dress Code during the AIPMT examination mandates that “The candidates will observe the following dress code while coming for appearing in AIPMT Examination: a) Wear light clothes with half sleeves Shirt/T-Shirt/Kurta not having big buttons, brooch or any badge, flower and Trouser/Salwar etc. b) Wear open slippers and not the shoes.” The Hijab, the customary attire worn by Muslim women, is not a light cloth and it is full sleeve, and it is worn above the normal dress.
The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that ”Wearing head scarf is an essential religious practice. The girls will be forced to abandon the examination,” to which the bench retorted “Oh, come on! Please. On a day when you have to sit for an exam, you are being asked not to wear it. Your faith won’t disappear if you appear for the exam without a scarf.” The Bench added “Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth”.
The bench was of the view that the dress code notified by CBSE is a reasonable restriction and meant to proper conduct of exam, in view of the fact that the Supreme Court itself had ordered re conduct of the exam due to reported irregularities. The bench said “here were serious problems and we ordered for re-conducting the exam. Now the exam has to be held properly. What if everyone wears a scarf or something else and claims it to be a religious practice? Can an examiner start inquiring into everybody’s faith?”
Earlier, High Court of Kerala had held that the denial of Woman’s Right to wear her Religious Attire is not proper; and had allowed Muslim girls to wear Hijab in AIPMT Exams. Since the plea before Supreme Court has been withdrawn and not dismissed, it seems that the order of High Court still stands. The High Court, however, had not interfered with the notification by CBSE.