Recently I came across this news item in Hindu.
New Delhi: Rejecting the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport a beard in his convent school, the Supreme Court on Monday observed that secularism could not be overstretched and “Talibanisation” of the country could not be permitted.
“We don’t want to have Talibans in the country. Tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa. Can we allow it,” asked Justice Markandey Katju, speaking for a Bench headed by Justice Raveendran. Asserting that he was a secularist to the core, Justice Katju, however, said religious beliefs could not be overstretched. “I am secularist. We should strike a balance between rights and personal beliefs. We cannot overstretch secularism.”
Justice Katju made these observations while dismissing the petition by Mohammad Salim of the Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, for quashing its regulation requiring students to be clean shaven. Challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict that earlier dismissed his plea, Salim said every citizen was entitled to follow his religious principles and no one should restrain him from doing so in a secular country.
Salim’s counsel Justice (retired) B.A. Khan argued that sporting a beard was an indispensable part of Islam.
“But you [Justice Khan] don’t sport a beard,” Justice Katju told counsel.
The court then said a minority institution had its own set of rules and rights provided by Article 30 of the Constitution and the same could not be breached by any person. “If there are rules, you have to obey. You can’t say that I will not wear a uniform I will [wear] only a burqa,” the Bench observed.
The court said if the student was not interested in following the rules he would have the option of joining some other institution. “But you can’t ask the school to change the rules for you.”
Justice Khan said Article 25 guaranteed protection to Salim to pursue his religious practice of keeping a beard and the regulation providing for shaving it off was violative of this provision. He said the principal forcing the student to leave the school for keeping a beard was against “his religious conscience, belief and custom of his family.”
Pointing out that Sikhs were allowed to keep a beard and sport a turban, Salim alleged discrimination on the part of the school in forcing him to be clean shaven. — PTI
Your comments on Justice Katju's observations.