The Supreme Court, in an interim order on Friday, directed Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh to take back Mohammad Salim, who was expelled last year for refusing to shave his beard on religious grounds.
A bench of justices BN Agrawal and GS Singhvi issued notices to the school at Sironj in Vidisha district, about 120 km north of state capital Bhopal, and the state government on Salim’s petition, challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court order that dismissed his plea against the expulsion.
Terming the expulsion 17-year-old Salim, a vegetable vendor’s son, as “ridiculous”, the court said by the same logic, no Sikh student could study in a school.
The case threw up a legal question as a citizen from one minority community claimed precedence of his right to
religion under Article 25 over the right of another minority community to establish and administer educational institutions. In Bhopal, elated over the verdict, Salim said he planned to resume studies after Eid.
Salim is at present on a 40-day religious tour (Chilla) in Bhopal, 60 km from Sironj.
He said, “I fought a long battle and the Almighty finally showered his blessings on me.”
Father Anand Muttungal, spokesperson for Catholic churches of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, said, “A school expelling a student for keeping a beard was an exceptional case. And both the communities (Christians and Muslims) understand it.”
Abdul Karim Ansari, Salim’s counsel said, “I will soon reach Sironj and will get Salim admitted in the school.”
(With inputs from Qazi Amirullah in Bhopal)