- HC said that the Karnataka government order dated February 5 is not unconstitutional
- HC also declared that educational institutions have a right to prescribe uniforms
- It said prescription of uniform is a reasonable restriction which students could not object to
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday quashed all petitions challenging the ban imposed by the government on wearing Hijab in schools and colleges. The HC declared that educational institutions have a right to prescribe uniforms and held that the Karnataka government's order dated February 5 is not unconstitutional. It also said that wearing of Hijab does not form a part of essential religious practice in the Islamic faith.
The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to, a three-judge bench of the court further noted.
"We are of the considered opinion that wearing of Hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in the Islamic faith," Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi who headed the full bench of the High Court said reading out a portion of the order. The other two judges in the panel were Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi.
The court also maintained that the government has the power to issue impugned government order dated February 5, 2022, and no case is made out for its invalidation.
The hijab controversy first took shape on January 1, when six girl students of a college in Udupi attended a press conference held by the Campus Front of India (CFI) in the coastal town protesting against the college authorities denying them entry into classrooms wearing headscarves or hijab. This was followed by some Hindu students turning up in saffron shawls in protest, even as the government insisted on a uniform norm.
The full bench of the High Court was constituted on February 9 on a petition filed by a section of Muslim students from the Government Pre-University Girls College in Udupi, seeking permission to wear a Hijab inside the classroom. The full bench of the High Court started hearing on a day-to-day basis from February 10. It concluded the hearing in the case on March 14.
The state government through its February 5 order had banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges.
The court also rejected the plea to initiate a disciplinary inquiry against the college, its principal and a teacher. "In the above circumstances, all these writ petitions being devoid of merits are liable to be and accordingly are dismissed. In view of the dismissal of the writ petition, all the pending applications fell into insignificance and are accordingly disposed of," the bench said in its order.
Meanwhile, large gatherings have been banned and schools have been shut in the state. Section 144 has also been imposed in the Shivamogga, Udupi, Kalaburagi districts.
Everyone should abide by Karnataka HC order: CM
Reacting to the HC verdict, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said everyone should abide by the verdict of the High Court and cooperate with the state government in implementing it. Calling for the maintenance of peace and order in the society, he also asked students to focus on their education, by accepting the court verdict.
"I have just now got to know through the media about the High Court's order regarding the case related to uniform (in classrooms). The court has upheld the uniform and has said that Hijab is not an essential religious practice," Bommai said.
"This was a matter concerning the future and the education of students, and nothing is more important than education," the CM added.
State's Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh said, "We will try to win the hearts of the misguided Muslim girls who are against the move and bring them into the mainstream of education."
"I have faith that the girls will come to the college and continue their education because the people of Karnataka neither speak against the court verdict nor go against it. I believe that these girls were misguided. They will be 'all right' in the coming days," he added.
State Home Minister Araga Jnanendra welcomed the High Court order, saying, "Everyone should abide by the HC order. Maintaining the law and order is everyone's responsibility."