Hijab Is Not an Essential Religious Practice: Karnataka Govt in HC

"There was a statement by Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly where he said 'let us keep the religious instructions outside educational institutions'," Karnataka advocate general told the court.

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Monday reiterated that hijab is not an essential religious practice and said religious instructions should be kept outside the educational institutions.

“This is our stand that hijab is not an essential religious practice. There was a statement by Dr B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly where he said ‘let us keep the religious instructions outside educational institutions’,” Karnataka advocate general Prabhuling Navadgi told the full bench of the high court, which is hearing the hijab case.

The full bench comprises Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice J.M. Khazi and Justice Krishna M. Dixit.

Also read: Debate: Thanks to the Hijab Issue, India is Falling Once More Into the Communal Trap

According to the AG, only the essential religious practice gets protection under the Article 25, which guarantees the citizens to practice the faith of their choice. He also referred to “reforms in the religion” as part of the Article 25.

As soon as the proceedings began, CJ Awasthi said certain clarifications were required related to hijab.

“You have argued that government order is innocuous and the state government has not banned hijab and not put any restrictions on it. The GO says that the students should wear the prescribed uniform. What is your stand – whether hijab can be permitted or not in the educational institutions?” the Chief Justice asked.

In reply, Navadgi said if the institutions allow it, then the government would possibly take a decision as and when the issue arises.

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

“This was four days after they requested the principal permission to wear hijabs in classes 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,” Rudre Gowda had said.