The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea of an Islamic group opposing a dress code prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that barred candidates appearing for its July 25 All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) from wearing headscarves and full-sleeve shirts.
The Students Islamic Organisation of India had asked the court to intervene on their behalf, arguing that some articles of clothing like a hijab, or a veil, were part of their “essential religious practice”.
But the bench headed by Chief Justice of India HL Dattu rejected the plea, saying, “If you appear in an examination without a scarf, your faith will not disappear.” The court said faith was not connected to wearing a particular type of clothes and while describing the plea as "nothing but an ego", it said candidates could put on the headscarves after the examination was over.
The CBSE prescribed the dress code after the top court on June 15 scrapped the results of the AIPMT held on May 3 over allegations of widespread cheating and ordered a fresh test.
The Kerala high court had on Tuesday allowed two students, Nidha Raheem and Asiya Abdul Kareem, to write their examinations wearing full-sleeve clothes and hijab. It directed CBSE authorities to depute a female invigilator at the examination centre while asking the students to present themselves to the invigilator 30 minutes before the test.
But the apex court took a different view. Calling the dress code a “small issue”, it pointed out that the AIPMT was being re-conducted because it had to be cancelled owing to irregularities.
“If the board has issued guidelines to ensure exams are conducted without any problem, we shall not interfere with it,” the CJI told the petitioner. “Examiners cannot conduct inquiry into everyone’s faith. They have to do it (AIPMT) appropriately this time.”
The court recalled an SC administrative decision wherein it had barred people from wearing caps. “This was challenged on the judicial side and we did not entertain it, although on the administrative side it was given up later,” the CJI said.