New Delhi, Jan 23: In a tussle between religious sentiments and constitutional right, the Supreme Court on Friday, Jan 22 has decided to rule out voting rights to women who refused to be photograph without the veil.
"Religious sentiments cannot override statutory rule. voting is a statutory right and if you want to vote your photograph is necessary," the court said during the hearing of a petition by Madurai resident Ajmal Khan who pleaded that publishing the photograph of Muslim women was against their religious belief.
The a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma asked whether a Muslim woman would like to contest election with her face covered, adding that burqa-clad women should avoid voting if being photographs creates such a problem.
"What if you want to contest an election?. If you have such strong religious sentiments, and do not want to be seen by members of public, then do not go to vote. You cannot go with burqa to vote. It will create complications in identification of voters,"
The Apex Court said that photographs taken in veil pose hindrance in identifying the voter.
“If someone comes to vote in a burqa and the photograph was also taken with a veil covering the face, how would anyone identify the voter?'' the court said.
Khan approached the apex court after his petition, challenging the decision of the Election Commission to release electoral rolls with photographs of voters, including those of Muslim women, was dismissed by the Madras High Court on September 7, 2006.
In his petition Khan said that the Muslim women have no issue with having a voter identity card, but were against having their pictures taken without the burqa.
“The religious custom and preachings of Holy Quran lay down that Muslim women should wear purdah and 'burqa" and show their faces only to their husbands and close relatives," Khan said in his plea.
Khan argued that there were chances of the photographs being misused.
This move by the SC could dampen the efforts of the political parties, who are strongly campaigning for the Muslim rights, in return for their votes.