‘Hijab not a mandatory part of Islam,’ Karnataka High Court judgement

BENGALURU: In a landmark judgment, the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday ruled that hijab is not an essential part of Islam, in a way underscoring the state government’s ban on the use of head scarves in educational institutions by Muslim girls and women. .

A three-member bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khaji said that looking at the whole matter as a whole, the bench has framed certain questions and answered accordingly.

The questions raised were whether wearing the hijab is a necessary religious practice under the Islamic faith protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution; Whether the school uniform directive violates the rights of the student under Articles 19(a) (freedom of expression) and 21 (right to privacy); and Government Order dated 5 February, “arbitrarily issued without application of mind”.

Reading out the judgement, Chief Justice Awasthi said, “We are of the view that the wearing of hijab by Muslim women is not a part of the religious practice required in the Islamic faith. The answer to the second question is that we are of the considered view that the prescribing of school uniforms is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible, to which students cannot object. The answer to the third question is that the government has the authority to issue the order and no case is made out for its invalidity.

Supreme Court lawyer Anas Tanveer tweeted that the students of the disputed Udupi College will oppose the order in the Supreme Court. “Met my clients in hijab case in Udupi. In sha allah going to sc soon. These girls will continue their education by exercising their right to wear hijab in Allah. These girls have not lost hope from the courts and the Constitution.”

Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh appreciated the decision and tweeted, “I welcome the landmark judgment of Hon’ble Karnataka High Court on School/College Uniform Rules. It reiterated that the law of the land is above all.”

The bench, constituted on February 9, heard a batch of petitions on a daily basis in the last two weeks filed by some girls seeking permission to wear hijab in educational institutions. On December 28, a pre-university government college for girls in Udupi was denied entry for girls wearing headscarves, triggering a debate.

What began with two colleges in the coastal districts of Udupi and Mangaluru turned into a state-wide controversy after more institutions announced a ban on the hijab last month. Hindu groups organized groups of men wearing saffron shawls to protest the entry of women into the hijab in schools and colleges, while separate clashes broke out in Shivamogga, prompting the state government to issue a controversial order on February 5. Was forced to, stating that the students would not be allowed. Attend class wearing a hijab.

On February 10, the High Court issued an interim order stating that students should not wear any religious dress in classes till the end of the hearing. On February 23, it clarified the order and said that it applies to the dress code in all degree and PU colleges.

The exchange limited judicial proceedings, which have acted in the interest of the country over the past few weeks. The arguments in the case, which have turned into a major debate around the display of religious identity in educational institutions in the state and the treatment of minorities, were largely focused on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

During the hearing, the girl students argued that wearing hijab is a necessary religious practice under Islam and suspending it for a few hours during school undermines the faith of the community and violates their fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 25. Is. of the Constitution.

Appearing for the petitioners, advocate Devdutt Kamat cited several decisions of other countries including South Africa and Canada and also referred to the case of Sonali Pillai, who challenged her school order in court to make her point. When he was banned from wearing a nose ring. , Kamat said that Pillai won the case in South Africa.

Demanding the right to wear traditional scarves, Kamat said wearing hijab is an innocent practice of faith and not a display of religious bigotry.

Senior advocate Ravi Verma Kumar submitted that discrimination against Muslim girls is purely based on religion as Hindu girls wearing bangles and Christian girls wearing crosses are not sent out of educational institutions. The petitioners claimed that hijab is an essential part of Islam and public order will not be disturbed just because a Muslim girl wears a hijab.