Hijab verdict evokes mixed reactions; plea filed in Supreme Court

Wearing hijab is not an essential Islamic religious practice, said a three-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court

Hijab
All schools and colleges have been shut in Mangaluru and Shivamogga

A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court’s order of Tuesday, March 15, dismissing the various pleas challenging the ban on the wearing of hijab in educational institutes.

With the Karnataka High Court’s verdict on hijab going against them, the students of the Udupi government pre-university women’s college, who were the petitioners in the case, on Tuesday said that they will explore further legal options to fight for their right to wear the headscarf.

“We had a lot of hope that we would get justice. But, unfortunately, we did not,” said the petitioners at a press conference in Udupi. “We are six members and we all have the same opinion — that we will not go to classes without the hijab.”

“If it (hijab) was not essential, we would not have gone through so much struggle,” Aliya, one of the petitioners, told reporters. “We will not remove the hijab but we want education as well. This was a matter that could have been solved within the college compound. But it became communal with political interference. All I want to say is that because the college authorities did not allow us to go to class wearing the hijab, today, so many girls all over Karnataka are facing this situation and their education is getting affected.”

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Earlier in the day, the Karnataka High Court had declared that educational institutions have a right to prescribe uniforms, and dismissed writ petitions filed by Muslim girl students seeking permission to wear the hijab in colleges.

Wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice, said a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justices Krishna Dixit and JM Khazi.

The Federal coverage of hijab conflict

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The questions before the bench…

1) Whether wearing hijab (headscarf) is a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith protected under Article 25 of the Constitution.

2) Whether prescription of school uniform is not legally permissible as being violative of petitioner’s fundamental rights inter alia guaranteed under Article 19 1(a) that is Freedom of Expression and Article 21 that is privacy of the Constitution.

3) Whether the government order dated February 5, 2022, apart from being incompetent is issued without application of mind and further is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

…and the answers

“The answer to the first question is the considered opinion that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith.”

“The answer to our second question is we are of the considered opinion that the prescription of a school uniform is only a reasonable restriction constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to.”

“The answer to the third question is in view of the above we are of the considered opinion that the government has the power to issue the impugned order dated February 5, 2022 and no case is made out for its invalidation.”

Read full judgment here: WP2347-2022.pdf

The bench also maintained that the government has the power to issue impugned government order dated February 5, 2022 and no case is made out for its invalidation. By the said order, the state government had banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges.

The court also rejected the plea to initiate a disciplinary inquiry against the college, its principal and a teacher.

“In the above circumstances, all these writ petitions being devoid of merits are liable to be and accordingly are dismissed. In view of the dismissal of the writ petition, all the pending applications fell into insignificance and are accordingly disposed off,” the bench said in its order.

There were a total of seven writ petitions filed before the HC in connection with the case. The first four were from students of the Government Pre–University College for Girls in Udupi – where the hijab controversy first broke out – and the Government Pre-university College in the neighbouring taluk of Kundapura.

The first petitioner had sought a direction to the government and college authorities to permit them to wear hijab in the classroom, arguing that wearing it is a part of essential religious practice of Islam. The subsequent three petitions by students challenged the uniform policy at these colleges and the Karnataka government’s order on February 5 which enforced these uniforms while banning hijabs and saffron shawls in classrooms.

Follow The Federal’s Live Coverage of the Judgement and Reactions

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