The Kerala High Court Tuesday allowed two Muslim girls to wear a headscarf and a full-sleeve dress for the July 25 All India Pre-Medical Test, but on the condition that an invigilator can frisk them if required.
In a notice to the parents of all examinees, the CBSE recently imposed a strict dress code to curb the use of unfair means.
Giving conditional exemption to the two girls from following the dress code, the bench of Justice K Vinod Chandran said its decision applied only to the two petitioners.
It also said the girls have to appear before a woman invigilator or another woman official at the hall half an hour before the exam. The invigilator can remove the headscarf and frisk the petitioners if she develops any suspicion of malpractice during the exam, the court said.
The court said that it was not proper for any authority to deny a woman the right to wear her religious attire. The court also observed that if a particular dress is mandated by a religion, it cannot be insisted that such a dress be avoided for an examination.
Asiya Abdul Kareem, one of the petitioners, said that had the court verdict not been favourable, she would have skipped the exam.
“It is my fundamental right to wear the headscarf and full-sleeve dress. I wear it when I go out. My religious belief does not allow me to sit for the exam in the prescribed dress code,” Asiya told The Indian Express.
Asiya studied at a CBSE school run by the Muslim Educational Society in Kozhikode. She scored 92 per cent in the Class XII examination held in March.
She had appeared for the medical entrance examination held in Kerala, but did not qualify for the MBBS course. She was eligible for the Dental and Ayurveda courses, but did not opt for them.
She is also preparing for next year’s medical entrance examination conducted by the Kerala government.
Asiya said her father, a medical practitioner in the Gulf, and her relatives had encouraged her to move a petition in the high court.
“I wanted the order binding for all Muslim girls, who cannot abandon their religious dress code even for an examination. I think many Muslim girls would not sit for the CBSE exam due to the dress code,” she said.
The other petitioner was Nadha Rahim from Palakkad district.
CBSE counsel Devan Ramachandran said the governing body did not want to hurt or violate religious sentiments. “We wanted the integrity of the examination protected. The court has not set aside the dress code, but only granted exemption for two petitioners,” he said.
In its notice to parents, the CBSE had said, “Wear light clothes with half sleeves shirt/t-shirt/kurta not having big buttons, brooch or any badge, flower. Wear open slippers and not shoes.” Other banned accessories include wallets, goggles, handbags, hair pins, hair bands, tabeez, belts, cap and scarves.
The CBSE counsel pointed out that the Supreme Court had scrapped the earlier pre-medical examination after it was found that electronic devices were used to cheat and the wires of such gadgets were covered using full-sleeved dress.