Secularism cannot be overstretched to permit “Talibanisation” – Supreme Court

published on March 30, 2009

SC disallows Muslim student to sport beard

R Balaji | New Delhi – Dailypioneer

the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport beard
in his convent school, the Supreme Court on Monday observed secularism
cannot be overstretched and that “Talibanisation” of the country cannot
be permitted.

“We don’t want to have Taliban 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

Challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict
that had earlier dismissed his plea, Salim submitted that every citizen
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) BA Khan argued before the bench that sporting beard was an indispensable part of Islam.

Justice Katju was apparently not impressed with the argument and
quipped, “But you (Khan) don’t sport a beard?” the judge asked the

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 wear only a burqa,” the bench observed.

court further said if the student was not interested in following the
rules then he has the option of joining some other institution.

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 BA 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

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
Sikh community members 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.

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