The Bombay High Court said it cannot allow a homoeopathy student to appear for her first year repeat examinations as she was held ineligible by the college due to poor attendance.
Fakeha Badami, in her petition filed earlier this week, claimed that her attendance was poor because the Sai Homoeopathic Medical College, located in Bhiwandi in the neighbouring Thane district, did not allow her to attend lectures as she wears the hijab.
The college’s lawyer, Sahil Salvi, refuted the allegations and said Badami, a resident of suburban Bandra, was held ineligible as she had low attendance.
“The college is willing to let her appear for the second repeat exams, scheduled to be held in December this year, provided she attends all the repeat lectures that will be conducted till November,” Salvi told a vacation bench of justices S J Kathawalla and A S Gadkari.
The court accepted this statement and said, “We hope after she attends the repeat lectures and appears for the exams the college allows her to attend the regular lectures and not disallow her then saying she is wearing hijab.”
To this, Salvi said the hijab was never an issue and that all students were allowed to wear the same and attend college.
The court said the petitioner also should accept the college’s statement.
“She (Badami) has attended only 28 classes. How can we allow her to attend exams now? She is doing a medical course. Without attending the requisite number of classes we cannot allow her to appear for the exams,” Justice Kathawalla said.
As per her petition, Badami had in 2016 enrolled in the Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery course in the college, which was affiliated to the Maharashtra University of Health Services (MUHS).
The petition claimed that she and several other students who wore hijab were prohibited from entering the college premises.
Badami then wrote letters to the MUHS and the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) which asked the college to resolve the issue, saying it cannot compel a student to not wear the hijab. But, the college did not budge, said the petition.
The student had first approached the high court in November 2017 when she was not allowed to appear for the examinations held then.
The college had then told the high court that it would accommodate her in the repeater lectures and examinations to be held in the 2018 summers, it said.
Despite this, she was allowed to attend the repeater lectures only from March this year and was again barred from appearing for the repeater exams on the ground of poor attendance, Badami claimed in the petition.
The other Muslim students had either stopped wearing the hijab to the college or had left the institution. But since she continued to wear the hijab, she was being harassed, the student alleged.
“India is a secular democracy. Denying anyone the right to wear the hijab amounts to violation of fundamental right to practice religion of their choice,” the petition said.