There is no law that prohibits the use of headscarves in educational institutions, students barred from using hijab contended in the Karnataka High Court today.
Appearing on their behalf, senior advocate Devadatt Kamat said hijab is protected under the religious freedoms granted by the Constitution and no college development body is equipped to take a call on whether it can be banned in view of public order violation.
Contending that hijab has been made mandatory by the Islamic scripture of Holy Quran, he said, “We need not go to any other authority and this will be protected under Article 25”. Muslim girls wearing headscarves are not hurting anyone, he said, pointing out that religious freedoms can be barred only when it interferes with public order.
“What is the State saying to restrict my religious right? If they say public order, there will be problem for children of two religious communities,” he added.
The hijab row had started last month as students at a Udupi school refused to ditch the headscarves despite requests from teachers. Five students then went to court. As protests spread, schools and colleges were closed for three days and security measures were amped up in and around Bengaluru.
Later, the judge hearing the case, referred it to a larger bench and in a contentious interim order, ruled last week that schools and colleges could reopen but no religious clothing, including hijabs, would be allowed.
Amid the row, a government order last week had left it to colleges to take a call on whether to allow headscarves. Mr Kamat told the bench led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and comprising Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khazi that colleges are not competent to take a call on public order and it was the duty of the state to do so. In this case, the state, he said, has abdicated its duty.
Discussing the two sections of the Constitution’s Article 25, which discuss religious freedoms, the senior advocate questioned, “Where is that Law on the basis of which the headscarf is prohibited”. “The declaration made by the government that wearing of headscarf is not protected by Article 25 is totally erroneous,” he added.
Even Kendriya Vidyalayas permit Hijab of same uniform colour, Mr Kamat pointed out. “Kendriya Vidyalayas even today they permit by a notification, that even though they have a uniform, Muslim girls are permitted to wear a headscarf of the uniform colour,” he said.
The hearing will resume tomorrow afternoon.
As schools re-opened this morning, social media was flooded with visuals from various schools where the students were forced to remove headscarves before entering campuses. Some students went back home, unwilling to remove the headscarves. Parents’ plea that they be allowed to remove the headscarves once they were inside classrooms, went unheard.
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