A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and Khazi M Jaibunnisa recently stated that hijab could not be permitted in educational institutions as it is not an essential religious practice of Islam. Hijab also does not form part of the uniform either.
While delivering its judgement on the contentious issue, Karnataka High Court observed that the Quran does not mandate wearing of hijab. The court further stated that it is a cultural practice and is used as apparel as a measure of social security.
The High Court bench also maintained that the Government has the power to issue impugned Government order dated February 5, 2022, and no case can be made out for its invalidation. The State Government had banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public order in schools and colleges by the said order.
Summing up, Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, who headed the full bench, said, "We are of the considered opinion that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith.”
The High Court also rejected the plea to conduct a disciplinary inquiry against the college and its Principal. The bench, in its order, said, “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 of.”
“Strengthening Rights of Muslim Girls”
After the Karnataka High Court upheld the ban on hijab in educational institutions on March 15, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya said that it was an important step in strengthening opportunities for the girls, especially for those belonging to the Muslim community.
“I welcome the judgment of the Karnataka High Court; it's a very important step towards strengthening the educational opportunities and rights of girl students, especially for those belonging to the Muslim community,” said Tejasvi Surya.
He further said, “A section of society was trying to deprive Muslim girls of embracing education & modernity… going in appeal is people's right and they may do so, however… it's necessary for all parties to follow the order of the court, both in letter and spirit.”
Earlier on March 15, the Karnataka High Court dismissed various petitions challenging a ban on hijab in education institutions and said that wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice of Islam. A bench of Karnataka High Court in its order also said that no case is made out for invalidating the Government order of February 5.
The hijab row had erupted in January this year when the Government PU College in Udupi allegedly barred six girls wearing the hijab from entering the premises. Following this, the girls sat in protest outside college over being denied entry.
Subsequently, boys of several colleges in Udupi started attending classes wearing saffron scarves. This protest spread to other parts of the State as well leading to protests and agitations in several places in Karnataka.
A batch of petitions was filed against the Government's order in the Karnataka High Court by some girls seeking permission to wear the hijab in educational institutions.
The High Court, in its verdict, quoted an extract from Dr BR Ambedkar’s book Pakistan or the Partition of India'. Referring to the extract, the HC stated that "there is a lot of scope for the argument that insistence on wearing of purdah, veil, or headgear in any community may hinder the process of emancipation of woman in general and Muslim woman in particular."
After the High Court order, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai appealed for peace and harmony in the State. "All students should follow the High Court order and should not boycott classes or examinations. We will have to abide by the court orders and will take strict action against those who would take law and order in hands," said Bommai.
Welcoming the Karnataka Court's verdict on the hijab row, Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "The conspiracy about misinformation on the uniform has failed. You have the right to wear hijab at public places, and no one is stopping you. Pakistan planned to defame India on the hijab issue and the Congress ran a campaign of misinformation on the uniform. But a country runs through the Constitution."
He added that "Many faces have been exposed. Those who want to deprive Muslim girls of education will never succeed."
On the other hand, the girls from Udupi, who filed the petitions seeking permission to wear hijab inside the classrooms, said that they will not attend classes without hijab and fight the case legally till they get justice.
Expressing disagreements with the order, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said it is a violation of the Fundamental Rights to freedom of religion, culture, expression and Article 15. "Modernity is not about eschewing religious practices. What is the problem if one wears the hijab," Owaisi questioned.
Notably, the petitioners had reach out to the Supreme Court for challenging the Karnataka High Court's verdict.