“Don’t Spread To Larger Level”: Supreme Court ‘No’ To Urgent Hijab Hearing

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On a petition linked to the hijab row raging in Karnataka, the Supreme Court today rejected an urgent hearing and said, “We will interfere only at an appropriate time.”

A girl in Karnataka had approached the Supreme Court after the High Court yesterday advised students to avoid wearing “religious garments” until it decides on a case involving hijab restrictions in schools and colleges.

“Don’t spread these things to a national level. We will interfere only at an appropriate time,” Chief Justice NV Ramana said, declining an urgent hearing on the petition.

When a lawyer pressed the court to take it up, arguing that the case had “far-reaching implications” and that students had been wearing the hijab or head scarf for 10 years, the Supreme Court remained firm.

“Please do not spread it to larger levels. we know what is happening. Think over, is it proper to bring these things to Delhi? The national level? If there is anything wrong, we will protect…” Chief Justice Ramana said.

The girl’s petition had challenged the Karnataka High Court’s remarks that educational institutions in the state can open for now but with no religious clothing on campus, for the sake of peace.

Schools and colleges were shut down earlier this week in an escalating row over hijab restrictions in class. The protests that began against a hijab ban in one government-run college in Udupi spread to many other institutions where girls wearing hijabs were not allowed entry. As saffron scarf-wearing students launched rival protests, violence at one college forced the police to fire teargas to control the flare-up.

The Karnataka High Court is hearing a petition challenging hijab restrictions in colleges. Yesterday, a three-member bench said it would resume the hearing on Monday.

The student who has challenged the High Court’s comments says in her appeal to the Supreme Court that practical exams begin on February 15 and “any interference on students’ access to educational institutions will impede their education”.

She argued that wearing the hijab is within the constitutional right of expression, right to privacy and “Freedom of Conscience”, so the High Court order violates the constitution.

“The government has issued an order thereby denying entry to the Muslim Women wearing Hijab in the educational institutions. The impugned order creates an unreasonable classification between the non-Muslim female students and the Muslim female students and thereby is in straight violation of the concept of secularism which forms the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. The impugned order is also in sheer violation of Articles 14, 15, 19, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution and also violates the core principles of the International Conventions that India is a signatory to,” her appeal to the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court had yesterday refused to take up another petition, filed by student Fathima Bushra, challenging the Karnataka government’s order last week banning clothes which it said “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

“In the event of the administrative committee not selecting a uniform, clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn,” the Karnataka government’s order had said.

As Congress leader Kapil Sibal, a senior lawyer, urged the Supreme Court to take up Fathima Bushra’s petition, saying the issue is “spreading across the country”, Chief Justice Ramana had said: “We will see.”

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