A Class X Muslim student has moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of a school regulation, preventing him from sporting a beard.
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 clean-shaven.
Challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict that 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.
Keeping a beard is accorded high importance in Islam, the petition said.
Appearing for the student, senior advocate B A Khan said that Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteed protection to Salim to pursue his religious practice of keeping a beard and that the regulation providing for shaving it off was violative of this provision.
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.
Stating that the by-laws framed by the minority school should be "reasonable and rational," the student alleged that he was being "harassed with some ulterior motive or due to some communal feeling, which is very harmful for the society and for the nation as a whole."
The high court had accepted the school plea that it had the right to frame its own bi-laws in accordance with constitutional provisions and pointed to the apex court judgment in the case of PA Inamdar and Others vs State of Maharashtra.
The Supreme Court had held that neither any reservation policy nor any quota can be enforced by the state in a minority or non-minority institutions as they were free to admit students of their own choice including students of non-minority community and their own community from other states.
However, a bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran while adjourning the matter for March 30 asked the student to ascertain whether the school was government-aided or not.