Veil while exam no bar, rules Kerala High Court

The petitioner submitted before the court that she was an ardent believer in Islam.

Kochi: Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the CBSE to permit all female Muslim candidates, who want to wear head scarf and full-sleeve dress based on the religious practice, to appear for the all-India pre-medical/pre-dental entrance test-2016.

The court asked the girls to be present at the exam hall half an hour before the scheduled time and, if required, the women invigilator can search their body. “The interest of the board can be safeguarded by allowing the invigilator to frisk such candidates, including by removing the scarf.

However, this must be done honouring the religious sentiments of the candidates,” the court held. “The right of women to have the choice of dress based on religious injunctions is a fundamental right protected under Article 25 (1) when such prescription of dress is an essential part of the religion,” the court held.

Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque issued the order on a petition filed by Amnah bint Basheer of Pavaratti, Thrissur, challenging the dress code prescribed by the CBSE for the exams on May 1. The CBSE had mandated that the candidates appearing for the examination should wear light clothes with half sleeves to curb malpractices during exams. The petitioner submitted before the court
that she was an ardent believer in Islam.

Women believers in Islam had to cover their body, except face, with loose garments and should not appear in public or in the company of non-blood related men. The court observed that the analysis of the Quranic injunctions and the 'Hadiths' would show that it is a 'farz' to cover the head and
wear the long-sleeved dress except the face and that exposing the body otherwise is forbidden (haram). The rationale for prescribing dress code by the board is to avoid malpractices in the examination.

The prescription is not by invoking an interest of public order or morals of society. The public order is one which would affect the community or public at large, the court observed. “In the absence of any conditions referable under Article 25 (1), the essential practice cannot be regulated or restrained,” the court observed.

The petitioner submitted that unless the instruction on the dress code was quashed, there was every possibility of the CBSE prescribing the dress code in future. If the real intent of the CBSE was to ensure free and fair examination, the same could be achieved by frisking, instead of setting arbitrary and unreasonable conditions, she contended.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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