'No Law Prevents Essential Religious Practice Like Hijab': Students Argue in Karnataka HC

"Totally erroneous," the petitioners said in reference to the Karnataka government's contention that "wearing hijab is not protected under Article 25" of the Indian constitution.

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New Delhi: As the controversy over the hijab ban continues to intensify, the group of students who moved the Karnataka high court against the government order argued that there was no such law under the Indian constitution that prevented them from wearing hijab as it was an “essential religious practice”, LiveLaw reported.

Appearing on behalf of petitioners, senior counsel Devadatt Kamat told a three-judge bench (full bench) on Monday, February 14, that the Karnataka government’s contention that “wearing hijab is not protected under Article 25” was “totally erroneous”.

Stating that the Karnataka government’s order was violative of Article 25, Kamat read out the specific provision of the constitution, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.”

Also read: Staff, Students Asked to Remove Hijab at Gates as Karnataka Schools Reopen

Referring to a 2016 judgment by the Kerala high court, Kamat pointed out that the court had declared hijab as an “essential religious practice of Islam” and allowed two Muslim girl students to appear for the CBSE All-India Pre Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT). He also underscored that Quran made a reference to Khumur (headscarf) in chapter 24, known as ‘The Light’.

While stating that the government can only restrict students from wearing hijab if affected “public order”, he questioned how could the state government let a College Development Committee (CDC) – as in this case – take a call on prohibiting hijab.

Kamat pointed out that maintaining “public order” is the essential function of the state and cannot be delegated to an “extra-constitutional” authority like a CDC.

“A CDC comprising an MLA is an extra-constitutional authority and a third party to decide what to wear. The government has assigned its responsibility to this third party,” Kamat highlighted, stating that the state had abdicated its responsibility with regard to taking a call on public order.

Continuing further, he maintained that Muslim girls wearing headscarves were not hurting anyone, and hence the question of public order didn’t arise. “What is the state saying to restrict my religious right? If they say public order, there will be a problem for children of two religious communities,” he added.

‘Headscarves in the colour of school uniforms’

Kamat also claimed that the central schools (Kendriya Vidyalayas) permit Muslim girls to wear headscarves of the school uniform colour and the same could be done here.

“This is not a case where students are insisting on a different uniform. They are only saying they will cover the head with the same colour of the uniform that is prescribed,” he said, adding that the students had been wearing hijab for the past two years since their admission.

The court adjourned further hearing of the case to Tuesday, February 15.

As high schools reopened in Karnataka on Monday, February 14, tweets from across the state have surfaced, showing students and teachers allegedly being forced to remove their burqas and hijabs.

All educational institutions in Karnataka had been shut since last Wednesday, February 9, after a pre-university college’s decision to bar girl students in hijabs from entering the classroom led to protests and counter-agitations across the state, and later, India.