The high court ruled that requiring a school uniform is only a reasonable restriction.
the state government’s restriction on the use of the head scarf by Muslim girls and women in educational institutions.
The three-judge bench of chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, justice Krishna S Dixit, and justice JM Khazi said it had formulated questions and answered them holistically.
The government order dated February 5, “issued without application of mind with manifestly arbitrary” was questioned.
“We are of the considered opinion that wearing a hijab by Muslim women does not form part of the essential religious practise in the Islamic faith,” said Chief Justice Awasthi. Second, we believe that a mandatory school uniform is an acceptable constitutional restriction to which students cannot object. The government has the power to issue an order, and no case is made for its invalidation.”
Students at the disputed Udupi college will appeal the order, according to Supreme Court lawyer Anas Tanwir. “I met my Hijab clients in Udupi. In sha Allah, soon to SC. In sha Allah, these girls will continue their education while wearing Hijab. Courts and Constitution have not lost hope,” he tweeted.
“I welcome the landmark judgement of Hon’ble Karnataka High Court on School/College uniform Rules,” BC Nagesh tweeted. It emphasised that the law of the land is supreme.
The bench, which was formed on February 9, has been hearing daily petitions from girls seeking permission to wear hijab in schools. The girls were denied entry into an Udupi government pre-university college for wearing a headscarf, sparking the debate.
Last month, more colleges across the state joined the Udupi and Mangaluru coastal districts in banning hijab. In Shivamogga, isolated clashes forced the state government to issue a controversial order on February 5 banning students from attending classes wearing hijab.
On February 10, the high court issued an interim order prohibiting students from wearing religious attire until the hearing ended. With regard to degree and PU colleges with dress codes, the order was clarified on February 23.
The exchange capped judicial proceedings that captivated the nation for weeks. The case’s arguments centred on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with religious identity in educational institutions and minorities’ treatment by the state.
During the hearing, the female students argued that suspending hijab for even a few hours during school undermines the community’s faith and violates their constitutional rights under Articles 19 and 25.
Defending the petitioners, lawyer Devdatt Kamat cited several foreign judgments, including South African and Canadian ones, as well as the case of Sonali Pillai, who challenged her school’s order to wear a nose ring in court. Kamat said Pillai won in SA.
Kamat, seeking the right to wear the traditional headscarf, claims it is an innocent religious practise and not a religious jingoism.
According to senior advocate Ravi Varma Kumar, Muslim girls are singled out for discrimination because Hindu girls wearing bangles and Christian girls wearing crosses were not. The petitioners claim that the hijab is an essential part of Islam and that it does not disrupt public order.
The state government argued that the petitioners wanted the hijab declared a ‘essential religious practise,’ requiring every Muslim woman to wear it. Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi argued that the petitioners failed to provide any evidence to support their claim that wearing a hijab is an essential religious practise.