IN PERHAPS A FIRST for the state, the CPM-led Kerala government has allowed a religious group a special concession in the exam calendar on the grounds of religion. Following the order, nine Class 12 students belonging to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church will give their state board ‘improvement’ exams after sunset on coming Saturday, after the end of Sabbath marked by the group.
The order was issued by the Director of Public Instruction, acting on a petition by the Christian Protestant Church to the state government to reschedule the improvement exams of higher secondary slated for September 6. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church holds Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening every week (set aside as a day for rest and worship).
Around 55,000 students are expected to sit for higher secondary improvement exams in Maths, Biology and Computer Science. While the others will give their exams during the day, the nine Seventh-Day Adventist Church members will enter a special exam hall at Government Higher Secondary School, Sadanandapuram, Kollam, at 9.30 am and stay there till 6 pm, when the Sabbath ends and their exams will begin. They won’t be allowed any communication with others during this time.
“It is a worldwide practice that we don’t work or do any secular activity during Sabbath day Saturday. Come what may, we don’t write exams or do any work on Saturday. So far, successive governments had promised us exemptions, but officials failed to keep their word. For the first time, this year we have got an order exempting us from giving exams during Sabbath,’’ said Seventh-Day Adventist Church spokesperson pastor J Tito Arattukulam.
In 2016, the Karnataka High Court had rejected a petition by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to reschedule local university exams slated for Saturday. The court had cited several Supreme Court judgments saying that the right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion under Article 25(1) of the Constitution was subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions. The court had also noted that the government of India does not include Sabbath in its list of official festivals.
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