Monday, October 3, 2022

Delhi High Court directs DSSSB to submit exam guidelines on plea of Sikh woman not allowed to write exam for not taking off her kirpan, kara

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The Delhi High Court refused to accept the argument with regard to “controversy” raised by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB) and opined that you have to keep religious sentiments in mind during the hearing of a plea filed by a Sikh woman, who was allegedly restrained from entering the examination centre on the ground that she was wearing a kirpan and a kara.

Avnish Ahlawat, the DSSSB counsel, submitted the present petitioner was not stopped from entering the examination centre because she was wearing the kirpan and the kara but because, she had reached the examination centre after the stipulated time. There were guidelines in place to reach the examination centre an hour prior to the start of the examination.

Justice V. Kameswar Rao directed DSSSB to file an affidavit with regard to the guidelines issued by it and also state in it at what time the petitioner reached the examination centre.

Ahlawat agreed with the direction of the Court and replied, “We also want this matter to be decided. We don’t want any controversy on this.”

Justice Rao replied, “There isn’t any controversy in this, these are only the precautions, you have to keep in mind the sentiments of a religion. That’s all.”

Justice Rao asked, “At that time, the gates of examination centre were closed. Even if she came at the last moment, what happened on that day, was she wearing kirpan?”

The DSSSB counsel replied, “Guidelines were in place that no jewellery, no slippers, even kirpan was restricted earlier but later challenged in the High Court, which had allowed wearing of kirpan and kara in the examination centre. That case was related to NEET conducted by CBSE at that period of time, and there was no stay against the case. At present, kirpan and kara are allowed but she had reached the examination centre after the prescribed time.”

Justice Rao asked, “Even in UPSC exam, do they allow kara, bangles or kirpan, could that be taken inside, in any UPSC exam? What we are experiencing nowadays that there is usage of high technologies, person are surprised that these technologies can be used in this manner. The candidates must know what should be done or not. Just imagine that nowadays candidates are not even allowed to wear a full-sleeve shirt, not even shoes.”

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The DSSSB counsel replied,

“In one instance, while exam is going on, they had put something even in chappal. In fact, there were two writ petitions, pending where the high court has issued guidelines and we are following them.”

The Delhi High Court in its order noted that you have to show two things, that guidelines are in place and she has not adhered to the guidelines and came at the last moment. Justice Rao said, “Once you show me the guidelines, we can put this issue to rest. File an affidavit with regard to the guidelines and what time the candidate reached at the examination centre.”

The matter would now be heard on April 20, 2022.  The Court was seized of the petition filed by Manharleen Kaur, who was restrained from entering an examination centre on the ground that she was wearing a kirpan and a kara.

Through her petition, she has sought directions for framing of uniform guidelines by the Centre to ensure the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, and 25 are secured and protected.

Kaur was scheduled to take the examination for the post of PGT Economics, advertised by the DSSSB, at Arwachin Bharti Bhawan Senior Secondary School, Vivek Vihar on July 17 but was not allowed to enter the examination centre after she refused to remove her kirpan and kara.

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She said in the petition that the vacancy was notified by the government after a span of three years, and she has been preparing for it for the past one-and-a-half years. “Petitioner time and again requested and tried to reason out with such officials and pleaded that she should be allowed to give the exam,” reads the plea, adding that the requests went in vain and she was deprived of her right to appear in the examination.

“For a Sikh to wear and carry kirpan and kara is very pious and is an essential element of their practice of Sikh religion. The law recognises that religious freedom is primarily a matter of conscience,”

-argues the petition, adding that the Constitution of India allows the freedom to manifest one’s religion, alone and in private or in community with others, in public, and within the circle of those whose faith one shares.

The plea sought an enquiry into the “illegal refusal” by the authorities at the examination centre, and also prays for appropriate arrangements to allow her to appear in the examination at the earliest without any delay.

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It also stated that Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia had directed the DSSSB chairman in December 2017 to issue necessary instructions to ensure that Sikh students are allowed to carry their religious symbols when they come for any examination.

“It is pertinent to mention here that the same issue also came for adjudication before this Court in a writ petition… whereby this High Court vide an order dated 03.05.2018 observed that CBSE’s lack of accommodation for Sikh candidates is unjustified”

-adds the petition.

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