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The Supreme Court Friday deferred hearing on a plea to prohibit display of photographs of burqa-clad Muslim women in the voters’ list.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma deferred for a fortnight the hearing on the petition and asked petitioner Ajmal Khan, a Madurai resident, what Muslim women would do when they contested elections.
“What if you want to contest an election?” asked the chief justice, alluding to the legal provisions that having the name in the electoral list is a legal prerequisite for contesting an election.

The bench wanted to dismiss Khan’s lawsuit outright, but following a fervent plea by his counsel that he would convince the court of the legality of his plea in the next hearing, the bench deferred the hearing by a fortnight.

Khan had approach the apex court, challenging a Madras High Court ruling, which had dismissed his similar plea, questioning Election Commission of India’s move to have photographs of voters in electoral rolls.

Khan has questioned the move contending that it offends their religion.

“The religious custom and preachings of Holy Quran lay down that the Muslim Women should wear ‘purdah’ and ‘burqua’ and show their faces only to their husbands and close relatives,” Khan said in his plea.

He contended that the practice to print photos of Muslim women in the voters list, accessible to public and political parties at large, not only offends this religious edict but also takes away their fundamental right to practise and profess their religion.

Khan sought to clarify in his lawsuit that his community was not averse to having Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) for burqa-clad Muslim women, but having their pictures printed on a public document was anathema.

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