Hoping for a similar pan-Indian easing, three Muslim women have taken the Supreme Court (2015). However, the Apex Court dismissed the claim, stating “We will not interfere with this kind of little problem.” On the submission of the applicant’s lawyer that “The wearing of the headscarf is an essential religious practice. The girls will be forced to drop the exam ”, the bench then comprising CJI HL Dattu, Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, JJ. would have replied: “Oh, come on! Please. On a day when you have to take an exam, you are asked not to take it. Your faith will not go away if you show up for the exam without a headscarf.
The bench added, “Faith is something different from wearing some kind of cloth.” The petition was naturally withdrawn.
It was not an isolated request. Muslim women have repeatedly approached the courts with similar demands. In Amnah Bint Basheer (2016), the Court allowed all candidates who, due to their religious practice, wanted to wear a headscarf and a long dress at IYPTA 2016. The Court noted that “practical difficulties cannot be an excuse to honor fundamental rights ”.
In Fida Fathima (2017), many young Muslim women were allowed by the Kerala High Court to wear the headscarf during the AIIMS MBBS 2017 exam under section 25 (1), subject to searches by the female supervisors.
Clearly, the High Courts on several occasions have protected the rights of Muslim women to dress in accordance with their religious beliefs. That said, the question remains: Should minorities, especially the most educationally and structurally most backward minority in India (the Sachchar Committee report demonstrate), be expected to turn to the courts for an essential practice of their religion?