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SC judge apologises for “Taliban” remarks on Muslims

Under criticism from Mulsim groups, Supreme Court judge Justice Markandeya Katju on Monday apologised for his controversial comments that Muslim students cannot insist on sporting beards as it would lead to “Talibanisation” of the country.

A bench of Justices R V Raveendran and Markandeya Katju also withdrew the order passed by it on March 30 in which it had dismissed the petition filed by a student challenging the directive of a convent school in Madhya Pradesh that Muslims cannot sport beard.

During the hearing, certain observations were made by one of us (Justice Markandeya Katju). His intentions were not to offend anyone. However, if any one’s feeling has been hurt, he apologises and expresses regret in the matter,” the bench said in an order.

The apex court said since the petitioner Mohd Saleem had expressed apprehension that one of the judges (Katju) was biased it was requesting the Chief Justice of India to place the matter before another bench for hearing.

“The review petition expresses apprehension that one of the judges was biased against the petitioner. We are of the view that the matter should be heard by another bench. We therefore, withdraw the order of March 30, 2009,” the apex court said while referring the matter to another bench for a fresh hearing.

Nirmala Convent High School, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, had removed Mohd Saleem, a 10th class student, after he refused to shave his beard on the ground that it was mandatory in Islam.
Saleem challenged his removal in the State High Court which upheld the school’s decision after which he appealed to the Apex Court.

However, during the hearing on March 30, Justice Katju had told the petitioner and the advocate Justice B A Khan(retd), who appeared for the student, that Muslims have no fundamental right or religious duty to sport a beard.

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