The following news item would give a better picture:
Rejecting the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport beard in school, the Supreme Court on Monday observed that secularism cannot be overstretched and that “Talibanization” of the country cannot 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?” Justice Markandeya Katju, speaking for a bench headed by Justice Raveendran observed.
Asserting that he was a secularist to the core, Justice Katju however said religious beliefs cannot be overstretched.
“I am secularist. We should strike a balance between rights and personal beliefs. We cannot overstretch secularism,” the judge known for his incisive remarks said. Justice Katju passed the observation while dismissing the petition of the student. Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in Madhya Pradesh, has sought quashing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven. Challenging a Madhya Pradesh high court verdict that had earlier dismissed his plea, Salim submitted that every citizen was was entitled to follow his religious principles and that no one should restrain him from doing so in a secular country like India.
Salim’s counsel Justice (retd) B A Khan argued before the bench that sporting beard was an indispensable part of Islam.
But Justice Katju was apparently not impressed with the argument and quipped “But you (Khan) don’t sport a beard?” the judge asked the counsel.
The apex court then said that a minority institution has its own set of rules and rights provided by Article 30 of the Constitution and the same cannot be breached by any person.
“If there are rules you have to be. You can’t say that I will not wear a uniform I will only a burqa,” the bench observed.
The court further said if the student was not interested in following the rules then he has the option of joining some other institution.
“You can join some other institution if you do not want to observe the rules. But you can’t ask the school to change the rules for you,”Justice Katju observed. Appearing for the student, senior advocate B A Khan said that Article 25 of the Constitution 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 act of the principal to force 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 there was a clear discrimination on part of the school to force him to be clean shaven and this rule was violative of his fundamental rights. PTI