Dhaka: Bangladesh High Court has ordered the government to ensure women are not forced to wear the veil or religious dress in educational institutions or offices.

Court officials and reports said a two-member bench comprising judges A.H.M. Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Shaikh Mohammad Zakir Hussain issued the order on Monday.

A lawyer had drawn the court's attention to a newspaper report that the principal of a women's college in northwestern Natore had asked female students to wear the veil.

The report said Principal Mozammel Haque, who joined the college two months ago, stopped cultural activities and sports at the college, and had restricted the entry of female students who were not wearing the burqa.

The court also ordered the principal of Natore Rani Bhabani Government Women's College on August 26 to explain his actions. It asked the government to ensure that cultural activities and sports at educational institutions were not restricted in any manner.

The bench directed the government to take immediate action against the principal for imposing restrictions on students regarding the veil, and for stopping cultural activities and sports at the college.

The order came four months after another bench of the high court issued a nearly identical order barring educational institutions from forcing female teachers to wear veils against their will.

"It is their personal choice if they wear veils or cover their heads," the court said in a ruling in April this year. The court, comprising judges Syed Mahmoud Hussain and Syeda Afsar Jahan, also asked the education ministry to ensure the order was enforced.

The ruling followed legal action taken by a human rights group after a government education official verbally abused a school headmistress at a meeting in northwestern Kurigram about her dress.