Karnataka hijab row: Students yet to decide about future action post HC verdict

Ayesha Almas, one of the six students who had challenged the ban on hijab in the high court has decided to take time before arriving at a decision about the future course of action.

Published: 15th March 2022 12:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th March 2022 01:09 PM   |  A+A-

Students walk past police guarding outside a school in Bangalore on March 15

Students walk past police guarding outside a school in Bangalore on March 15. (Photo| Shriram BN, EPS)

By Express News Service

UDUPI: As the Karnataka High Court pronounced the much-expected verdict on Tuesday on hijab row stating wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice, the students who faced the setback after challenging the ban on wearing hijab inside classrooms have decided to wait and watch before arriving at their decision.

Ayesha Almas, one of the six students who had challenged the ban on hijab in the high court has decided to take time before arriving at a decision about the future course of action. Her family sources told The New Indian Express that as the High Court verdict has just come today, they need time before taking a decision.

Asked whether Ayesha and others will go to college when the ban on hijab inside classrooms has to be followed now strictly as per High Court order, sources said she has not yet decided on that aspect.

Another student petitioner Aliya Assadi had on Monday, a day before the high court verdict had tweeted "Tomorrow is a verdict day and Hope that justice will be served to the students who were struggling for their fundamental rights. Hopefully, once again we’ll be getting back to our normal educational life. Lets pray harder to Almighty. Indeed, he the best planner" (sic).

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She was not available for comments on the verdict. Meanwhile, Athaulla Punjalukatte, state president of CFI told The New Indian Express that High Court has passed an order, but the students who fought for their right to wear hijab have not got justice. '

'It is unconstitutional to delay the rights of the students, so we will go for continued legal fight,'' he said.

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Tight police protection was provided near Women's Government PU College, Udupi, on Tuesday. It is the six students from this college who had challenged the ban on hijab inside classrooms before the High Court, Karnataka.

Udupi Deputy Commissioner Kurma Rao had on Monday declared a holiday for schools and colleges in Udupi district on Tuesday, as the High Court was expected. Rao had said prohibitory order clamped under section 144 of CrPC in the 200-meter radius of educational institutions will continue to be in effect in areas around al Pre University Colleges and Degree Colleges.

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions filed by a section of Muslim students from the Government Pre-University Girls College in Udupi, seeking permission to wear Hijab inside the classroom, saying the headscarf is not a part of the essential religious practice in Islamic faith.

The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi further noted.

Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh welcomed the order and described it as "landmark."

"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," Chief Justice Awasthi, who headed the full bench of the High Court, said reading out portion of the order.

The other two judges in the panel were Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi.

The bench also maintained that the government has power to issue impugned order dated February 5, 2022 and no case is made out for its invalidation.

By the said order, the Karnataka government had banned wearing clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges, which the Muslim girls had challenged in the High Court.

The bench 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.

Minister Nagesh welcomed the order.

He tweeted, "I welcome (the) Landmark judgement of Hon'ble Karnataka High Court on School/College uniform Rules. It reiterated that the law of the land is above everything."

On January 1, six girl students of a college in Udupi attended a press conference held by the Campus Front of India (CFI) in the coastal town protesting against the college authorities denying them entry into the classroom wearing Hijab.

This was four days after they requested the principal permission to wear Hijabs in classrooms which was not allowed.

Till then, students used to wear Hijab to the campus and entered the classroom after removing the scarves, the college principal Rudre Gowda had said.

"The institution did not have any rule on Hijab-wearing as such and no one used to wear it to the classroom in the last 35 years.

The students who came with the demand had the backing of outside forces," Gowda had said.

The demand by a section of girls in the Udupi pre-university college to wear Hijab inside their classrooms erupted into a major row after some Hindu students turned up in saffron shawls, with the issue spreading to other parts of the state, even as the government insisted on a uniform norm.

Subsequently, the institutions were shut for a few days before the court directed their re-opening, while directing students not to insist on wearing any cloth on campuses of educational institutions which can instigate people, till the matter is resolved.

Challenging the February 5 order of the government, the girls had argued before the bench that wearing the Islamic headscarf was an innocent practice of faith and an Essential Religious Practice (ERP), and not a mere display of religious jingoism.

Invoking Article 25 of the Indian constitution before the bench, senior counsel Devadatt Kamat, who appeared on behalf of the Muslim girls from Udupi pre-university college, said the article speaks about 'freedom of conscience'.

Kamat had also argued that wearing Rudraksha or putting a Nama (Tilak or vermillion on the forehead) was similar innocent faith as people who put it feel protected by the divine and a connect with the creator.

The petitioners also contended that the restriction violated the freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(A) and article 21 dealing with personal liberty.

However, state Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi rejected the argument and said the right to wear hijab did not fall under Article 25 of Constitution as argued by the girls.

He also said there was no restriction on wearing Hijab in India with reasonable restrictions subject to institutional discipline.

He even contended that the girls were seeking a declaration to make Hijab mandatory.

Once the declaration is affirmed by the court, it will become binding on every Muslim woman to wear it or else they will be branded as anti-religious.

"The consequence of the demand to declare Hijab as an essential religious practice is huge because there is an element of compulsion or else you will be expelled from the community," Navadgi had told the court during the course of hearing.

The counsel appearing for the Udupi Government Pre-University Girls' College, its principal and a teacher, S S Naganand contended the prayer of the Muslim girls regarding the institution's authorities were unusual and said there is a fine line of distinction between religion and culture.

Naganand also told the court that the parents of the Muslim girls, who want Hijab to be permitted on the college campus, requested the teachers to ensure that their daughters are not involved in singing, dancing, music and extra-curricular activities.

"Now a different context is given to the whole thing. I don't know whether they mean the Muslim girls should not sing with their classmates. If the national anthem is sung, they should not sing? Is it against Islam?" Naganand had argued.

During the course of hearing, the Karnataka High Court also took note of the role of the Campus Front of India (CFI) after Naganand submitted that the hijab row was started by some students owing allegiance to the student body.

The senior counsel said the organisation was spearheading and drumbeating in favour of students demanding wearing of hijab in class-rooms.

Accordingly, Advocate General Navadgi submitted the government's submission regarding the CFI in a sealed envelope.

The court was also informed that some teachers were threatened by the CFI activists in Udupi and an FIR was also registered against them.

(With PTI Inputs)



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