SC Judge Apologises for 'Taliban' Remarks on Muslims

New Delhi
SC Judge Apologises for 'Taliban' Remarks on Muslims
Under criticism from Mulsim groups, Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju today apologised for his controversial comments that Muslim students cannot insist on sporting beards as it would lead to "Talibanisation" of the country.

A bench of Justices R V Raveendran and Markandeya Katju also withdrew the order passed by it on March 30 in which it had dismissed the petition filed by a student challenging the directive of a convent school in Madhya Pradesh that Muslims cannot sport beard.

"During the hearing, certain observations were made by one of us (Justice Markandeya Katju). His intentions were not to offend anyone. However, if any one's feeling has been hurt, he apologises and expresses regret in the matter," the bench said in an order.

The apex court said since the petitioner Mohd Saleem had expressed apprehension that one of the judges (Katju) was biased it was requesting the Chief Justice of India to place the matter before another bench for hearing.

"The review petition expresses apprehension that one of the judges was biased against the petitioner. We are of the view that the matter should be heard by another bench. We therefore, withdraw the order of March 30, 2009," the apex court said while referring the matter to another bench for a fresh hearing.

Nirmala Convent High School, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, had removed Mohd Saleem, a 10th class student, after he refused to shave his beard on the ground that it was mandatory in Islam.

Saleem challenged his removal in the State High Court which upheld the school's decision after which he appealed to the Apex Court.

However, during the hearing on March 30, Justice Katju had told the petitioner and the advocate Justice B A Khan(retd), who appeared for the student, that Muslims have no fundamental right or religious duty to sport a beard.

The judge further observed that it (apex court) cannot allow Muslim students to sport a beard as it amounted to Talibanisation of the country. According to the bench, if the plea of the student was entertained then tommorow a girl student might insist on wearing only a burqa in the classroom.

"If there are rules, you have to follow it. You can't say that I will not wear a uniform I will wear only a burqa," the bench observed.

The apex court had said that a minority institution has its own set of rules and rights provided by Article 30 of the Constitution and the same cannot be breached by any person.

The court further said if the student was not interested in following the rules then he has the option of joining some other institution.

"You can join some other institution if you do not want to observe the rules. But you can't ask the school to change the rules for you,"Justice Katju said.

Several Muslim groups had reportedly approached the Chief Justice of India seeking withdrawal of the remarks on Talibanisation by Justice Katju.
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