A Keralite nun was denied entry to the All India Pre Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT) in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, 25 July, after she refused to take off her veil and her cross, as is required under CBSE's new dress code.
Sister Saiba, who was to take the test at the Jawahar Central School here this morning, said she sought permission to write the examination with her veil and cross. However, the school Principal told her about the guidelines issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). She then requested for a separate room to write the examination without the veil and cross, but it was not accepted by the school authorities, she told media.
Strict checking after Supreme Court's plea refusal
"I requested that I may be given a separate room where I will remove the veil and cross and write the test, but that was not allowed," she said. The Principal told her that she was also a Christian and understood her plight, but as per CBSE guidelines, veil and Holy cross cannot be permitted inside the examination hall.
Many students were seen removing head scarfs, ear rings and all other articles banned before entering the hall at various examination centres in the state. They were allowed inside only after body frisking. The Supreme Court had on 24 July refused to entertain plea of an Islamic organisation that Muslim girl applicants be allowed to wear 'hijab' (scarf), a customary religious dress, while appearing for the AIPMT.
"Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth," a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu stated, adding the AIPMT was being held again at its direction and some "reasonable restrictions" were needed. Kerala High Court had earlier granted conditional permission to two Muslim girls to appear for the test wearing hijab.
In the backdrop of large scale irregularities in the AIPMT held in May this year, the apex court had directed CBSE to conduct a second test following which CBSE imposed a strict dress code, banning jeweleries, hair pins, head scarf or veils, shoes, watches and all electronic devices.
Reaction from Sylo Malabar Church
Reacting to the incident, Sylo Malabar Church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekkat, said it was "unfortunate" that the nun was not permitted to write the test.
"The Catholic church does not consider veil as the most important religious symbol of the Catholic faith. At the same time, we do not subscribe to the view of the Supreme court Chief Justice that 3-4 hours without veil does not make any difference. It does make and it is up to the citizen to take the decision", he told the media.
(With inputs from PTI)