Ban on beard ridiculous: Apex court

via Pioneer News Service | New Delhi published on September 11, 2009

Ban on beard ridiculous: Apex court

Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

A schoolboy of a particular community stood vindicated in his fight to keep a beard as an article of his faith, after the SC on Friday stepped in by restoring his admission to the school. The institute had asked the student to trim his beard or quit, prompting the SC to term the demand as ‘ridiculous’.

Issuing notice on the plea filed by 16-year-old Mohammad Salim, Bench of Justices BN Agrawal and GS Singhvi sought a response from Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School in Madhya Pradesh.

Commenting on the school’s action, the bench observed, “It’s not the question of any particular community, but it’s prima facie ridiculous for any person.” Giving a deeper thought to the rule imposed by the Catholic convent, the Bench wondered, “No Sikh student can then be permitted.”

Arguing for the student, senior advocate BA Khan told the Bench that Salim had already lost one year of studies. Salim had challenged the regulation of the school that required all students to be clean-shaven. Seeking protection of his religious beliefs under Article 25, Salim’s lawyers argued that growing a beard was an indispensable part of Muslim religion. Terming the regulations of the Catholic school unconstitutional, Salim sought an express order from the court to allow him keep his beard.

Interestingly, another bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju had on a previous occasion dismissed the case at the threshold without issuing notice. The famous comments by the judge ‘We cannot permit Talibanisation in this country’ had created a sensation. Later, however, the judge recalled the order after offering apology and placed the matter on board for fresh consideration. This fact too weighed with the Bench, which asked the counsel for the petitioner, “Was there no stay granted?” On learning that the continuance of the writ plea could adversely affect the career of the student, the Court said, “Till further orders, it is directed that the petitioner shall be allowed to proceed with his studies in the respondent institution.”

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