The state government has denied a Muslim girl student’s request to wear hijab (head covering) with the uniform of student police cadets (SPC), a volunteer force operated by the state police program among schoolchildren. Based on a directive from the high court, the government dismissed the petition by saying uniforms should ensure dignity of dress code of police forces and work towards gender justice and non-racial and non-religious discrimination among children. ‘Combining religious matters with uniforms in the present situation would raise the same demands in other similarly functioning forces, which would question the discipline and secular survival of the forces,’ the order issued by the joint secretary of the home department said.
According to Riza Nahan, a student of GHSS, Kuttiyadi, the existing dress code regarding the SPC project is out of keeping with the religious beliefs of the Muslim community, and therefore, they should be allowed to wear cadet uniforms in accordance with their community customs. Moreover, the petitioner asserted that wearing hijab and full sleeves is a religious obligation and also a fundamental right, as stated in Article 25(1) of the Constitution. In her petition, the petitioner states that it is a denial of justice if she is prohibited from wearing a uniform with full sleeves and a hijab in a manner that does not violate the discipline of the SPC project or the rights of others.
According to the police, the SPC project’s objective was to train high school students to be future leaders of a democratic society by teaching them respect for the law, discipline, civics, empathy for vulnerable sections of society, and resistance to social ills. ‘It also aims to create a society which respects and strongly believes in rule of law, to create a generation which places nation above all differences to become a constructive platform between police and students and act as a feeder organization for Kerala Police. As such, it was decided to have a similar training programme and uniform of the police for the SPC project. In Kerala Police, all police personnel are wearing the same uniform and no religious symbols are permitted in the uniform. The same system is being followed for SPC also,’ the police said.
Furthermore, it said that religious dress-codes are not allowed in non-profit organizations like the NCC and Scouts and Guides. The uniform of SPC should not bear any religious mark since the training provided in the project is similar to that provided to the Kerala Police.