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PIL filed in Supreme Court seeking directions for common dress code for students, staff in schools, colleges

A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court by Nikhil Upadhaya, son of Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay through AOR Ashwini Kumar Dubey seeking direction to the Centre and States to strictly implement a Common Dress Code for staff and students in all the registered and recognized educational institutions in order to secure social equality and to promote fraternity, dignity and National integration.

The PIL also seeks direction to Centre for constituting a Judicial Commission or an Expert Committee to suggest steps to inculcate the values of social economic justice , socialism ,secularism and democracy to promote fraternity, dignity unity and national integration among the students . It also directs the Law Commission of India to prepare a report suggesting effective steps to secure social economic equality and to promote Fraternity Dignity Unity and National integration within 3 months.

According to the PIL the Cause of Action occurred on 10.2.2022, when protests were held in several areas of the National capital against the hijab curbs in Karnataka.

Petitioner submitted that educational institutions are secular public places which are meant to impart knowledge,wisdom,good health along with contributing to Nation building. the institutes thus, should not follow essential and non-essential religious practices.

It is very essential to introduce a Common Dress Code in all schools-colleges to preserve the secular character of educational institutions, otherwise tomorrow Naga Sadhus may take admission in colleges and attend the class without clothes citing essential religious practice.

The Petitioner further submitted that Common Dress Code is not only necessary to maintain uniformity but also to instill a sense of camaraderie among the students from different caste, creed, faith, religion, culture and place.

Petitioner respectfully submits that State recognized schools-colleges must strictly implement Common Dress Code in order to promote fraternity dignity unity and National integration. College must not allow such dresses which indicate any faith or religion, as educational institutions are not the places of religious adherence. It also creates barriers among students as well as teachers and anything which affects unity and gives scope for groupism should not be allowed at any cost.

The injury to the public is large because educational institutions accommodate students from various faiths, cultures and religions so it becomes very important to implement a common dress code to uphold and give effect to the principle of secularism and neutrality in interest of harmony, discipline, fairness. Educational institutions have the right to implement a common dress code to prohibit religious clothing symbols and it is irrational to expect from secular institutions to accommodate every religious and cultural expectation of a diverse community, the PIL alleged.

It is highlighted in the Petition that in US, UK, France, Singapore and China, all Schools and Colleges adhere to CommonDress Code despite frequent challenges to the constitutionality of dress guidelines.

Most Court rulings support the Common Dress Code because the use of common dress code has many benefits.

The PIL averred that France was the first European country to put a ban on wearing a burqa or niqab in public. The legislation has been in force since April 2011. Switzerland joined the list of European nations banning the niqab in 2021. In March, over 51% of Swiss voters cast their ballot in favour of the initiative to ban people from covering their face completely on the street, in shops and restaurants. In 2018, Denmark became another European nation to introduce a ban on face coverings in public places.

“Common Dress Code brings homogeneity and a sense of equality. Thus, it is important in educational institutions because these are places where there must not be any type of discrimination.

A college always has students from all parts of society. There would always be some rich, middle-class and even poor students. While some may have the luxury to meet the expense of the finest trends, the others who don’t have enough money can only marvel about such things. This damages the self-confidence in such students, triggering feelings of inferiority, jealousy, insecurity, or even depression. Having a dress code brings a sense of belongingness, makes the students feel united and is the easiest way to recognize students’ educational background.

Students should not be affected by socio-economic disparities and cultural differences which every educational institution should take care of”, the PIL reads.

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