A student of homoeopathy has moved the Bombay High Court against Sai Homeopathic Medical College for not allowing her to wear a hijab or headscarf and write her first-year examination, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. In her petition, the student said the “college started coercing all Muslim girls to remove their hijab” since the start of the course in December 2016.
In January 2017, she wrote to the Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy about the matter after her requests to the college authorities were rejected. She had told the college authorities that she could not comply with their demands as wearing the hijab was a religious practice. The petitioner said that by then, several other Muslim girls had either complied with the demand or left the college.
On January 20, the ministry purportedly asked the college to resolve the matter and said it “cannot compel a student to not wear hijab, since it is disrespect to social justice”. The petitioner claims that the college asked her to leave the institution instead.
On March 2, 2017, the student’s father wrote to the state Medical Education and Drugs Department that directed the college to meet the petitioner. She claimed that the college still refused to adhere to the authority’s directive. The petitioner alleged that the department then asked the college officials to appear before the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences officials for a hearing on May 15, 2017, but that the college did not send a representative.
During a rescheduled hearing on June 2, 2017, the college representative told the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences that the student could not be allowed to wear the hijab as “the management has stipulated a uniform dress code”.
The student said she approached the High Court in March after attempts by several authorities, including the Medical Education and Drugs Department and the State Human Rights Commission, failed to get the college to agree. On March 12, the court recorded the statements of the college and the Mumbai University Health Service officials, who said she would be allowed to take repeat classes and appear for the first-year bachelor of homoeopathy medicine and surgery course “as and when eligible for the same”.
The petitioner stated that while repeat classes were conducted for students between March 2 and April 18, she was allowed to enter the college only on March 19, which is when the college received the court’s order asking them to do so. She claimed she missed three days of classes between the remainder of the “repeat classes” on account of health reasons.
On March 27, the college barred her from submitting her admission form while citing that she did not have the required attendance. The petitioner asked the court to direct the Mumbai University Health Service to factor in the situation that the college had made it impossible for her to meet the mandatory attendance requirement.
The college’s counsel, Deepak Salvi, claimed the institution was not against her wearing of the hijab, The Indian Express reported. “The college had allowed her to wear hijab, but she was insisting on wearing a full burqa,” Salvi said. “If she wore a burqa, it would have been difficult for her to wear an apron, which is required in some of the classes.”