When Kerala High Court Had Ordered Petitioners to Follow the Dress Code Established by School Management

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Two Muslim girls had petitioned in the Kerala High Court in 2018 to instruct a private school to allow them to wear a headscarf and full-sleeve shirt, to which the court had declined.

In 2018, two Muslim school girls had approached the Kerala High Court with the plea to instruct a private school to allow them to wear the headscarf and full-sleeve shirt. The bench of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque had declined the plea.

The court had ruled that the “right of woman to have the choice of dress based on religious injunctions is a Fundamental Right protected under Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India, when such prescription of dress is an essential part of the religion.”

It further said, “The right to establish, manage and administer an institution is equally a Fundamental Right.”

Justice A Muhamed Mustaque had said, “The Court will, therefore, have to examine the matter on a totally different angle on the conflict between Fundamental Rights available to both.”

Dismissing the petition of the Muslim students, the court said, “It has to balance those rights to uphold the interest of the dominant rather than the subservient interest. The dominant interest represents the larger interest and the subservient interest represents only individual interest. If the dominant interest is not allowed to prevail, subservient interest would march over the dominant interest resulting in chaos. The dominant interest, in this case, is the management of the institution. If the management is not given free hand to administer and manage the institution that would denude their fundamental right.”

The court also said the girls were free to move to any other school which prescribed the dress they wanted to wear. It asked the management of Christ Senior Secondary School to provide the girls’ transfer certificate if they ask for it.

This judgment has become more important in the wake of the burqa controversy in Karnataka. Some Muslim girls have moved to Karnataka High Court for directions to their school to allow them to attend classes in a burqa. But the management has denied the permission.

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