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SC upholds ban on hijab and long sleeves in pre-medical test

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday firmly declined to entertain the trend of flaunting religious beliefs to seek immunity from dress code, asking three Muslim girls and little-known Students Islamic Organization of India to follow the code prescribed by CBSE for the All India Pre-Medical Test.

Buoyed by the Kerala high court‘s recent order allowing two Muslim girls to wear head scarf during examination, SIOI and the students requested the SC to grant similar relaxation to all Muslim girls during AIPMT by permitting them to wear full-sleeved dress with head scarf.

Appearing for them, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said, “It is a matter of religious belief. Muslim women and girls are required by religion to be attired in full-sleeve clothing and scarf whenever they appear in public. If the relaxation in dress code is not granted, these Muslim girls may have to drop out of the examination.”

The bench said: “The CBSE has come out with a dress code for the sake of keeping the examination fair and proper. It is a matter of three hours. You observe the dress code mandated by the CBSE for three hours and then wear the scarf as long as you want.”

“This is an examination. If during the examination you do not tie the scarf, you would not be committing a sin. No discourtesy will be shown to the religion if you appear in the examination without a scarf. You go and appear in the test and don’t waste time in the court,” the bench said.

AIPMT was cancelled by the SC following allegations of large-scale cheating by students. To prevent a repeat, CBSE had issued an examination dress code for students making it difficult for them to hide chits or gadgets.

The CBSE notification prohibiting ‘scarfs’, ‘hair pin’ and ‘hair band’ as well as mandating all students to wear half-sleeved clothes without big buttons was termed by petitioners as ‘anti-Islamic’. “If the above portions of the notification of CBSE are enforced, the petitioners will not be in a position to sit for the AIPMT scheduled for July 25 and would also amount to violation of their right to freedom of religion,” the petition said.

A bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said this argument — “allow me to wear the dress dictated by religion otherwise I would not appear in the examination” — was “nothing but an ego issue”.

Hegde said the students were ready to come to the examination Centre an hour before the scheduled time to subject themselves to a thorough check by women invigilators. But the bench asked: “If all the students come dressed similarly, how would the invigilator examine their religion and determine whether they were entitled to claim relaxation in dress code?”

The CJI said the SC has on administrative side passed an order saying no one would enter the court rooms with a cap or hat on. “Can a person violate it saying he belonged to a particular religion,” he asked. Finding the going tough, Hegde sought permission to withdraw the petition. The court dismissed it as withdrawn.


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