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Madhya Pradesh High Court – Non-Muslim students cannot be forced by school to wear hijab; should be allowed to wear sacred thread, tilak

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Bhopal. High Court of Madhya Pradesh recently granted bail to a school principal, a teacher, and a peon of a school in Damoh district, where girl students of all religions were allegedly being forced to wear hijabs and students forced to learn Islamic prayers.

Justice Dinesh Kumar also imposed several bail conditions including that students of the school, particularly female students who are not Muslims, should not be forced to wear a hijab or prevented from wearing essentials of their own religion.

The conditions imposed by the Court were as follows –

– They (school principal, teachers etc.) shall not prevent students of other religions from wearing the essentials of their own religion as such wearing a sacred thread (kalawa) and putting tilak on the forehead;

– They shall not compel the students of other religions to read or study any material or language which has not been prescribed or approved by the Madhya Pradesh Education Board;

– They shall not provide any religious education or material belonging to Islam faith to the students of other religions and shall impart only modern education as contained in Section 53(1)(iii) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015;

– Girl students of other religions (Hindu, Jain, etc.) shall not be compelled to wear a head scarf (Hijab) anywhere on the school premises or in the classroom.

The Court allowed bail after noting that the chargesheet has already been filed in the matter after an investigation, and considering that the main allegations were against the school’s management, rather than its principal, teachers and the peon.

The case was filed on a complaint that students not belonging to the Muslim faith, who were studying at the Ganga Jamuna Higher Secondary School, were being compelled to wear salwar kurtis, a head scarf (Hijab), and dupatta (scarf).

It was alleged that this was being forced on students studying in nursery classes up to class XII.

Further, the school was stated to have made Urdu a mandatory subject and further students were allegedly compelled to recite and learn prayers belonging to the Muslim faith.

While so, students from other religions were not allowed to put tilak on their forehead or tie sacred threads on their wrist, the Court was told.

Girl students at the school also gave statements during the investigation that the wearing of hijab was compulsory at the school.

A case was, therefore, filed against the principal, a teacher, a peon and the management of the school.

In their bail plea, the principal, teacher and peon told the Court that they have been falsely implicated and that the blame, if at all, would be on the school management. The Court was told that a resolution was passed by the school management, including its Managing Director to prescribe hijab as part of the mandatory dress code for girl students.

The bail applicants added that there were no allegations against them that they were involved in any forced conversion of students, while questioning the invocation of the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.

The Court allowed their plea for bail although it clarified that it has not commented on the merits of the case.

Input Courtesy – Bar&Bench

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