Hijab a practice of faith, not display of jingoism, Karnataka high court told | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Hijab a practice of faith, not display of jingoism, Karnataka high court told

By, Hindustan Times, Udupi
Feb 16, 2022 07:05 AM IST

The arguments in the petition, crucial to what has turned into a larger debate around the display of religious identity in educational institutes and the treatment of minorities in the state, were centred on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

Wearing a hijab is an innocent practice of faith and not a display of religious jingoism, the lawyer representing Muslim students seeking the right to wear the traditional headscarf told the Karnataka high court on Tuesday.

A three-Judge bench led by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justices J M Khazi and Krishna M Dixit, have been hearing multiple petitions filed in the matter. (AFP)
A three-Judge bench led by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justices J M Khazi and Krishna M Dixit, have been hearing multiple petitions filed in the matter. (AFP)

The arguments in the petition, crucial to what has turned into a larger debate around the display of religious identity in educational institutes and the treatment of minorities in the state, were centred on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

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“This (freedom of conscience) has a lot of depth in that term. The essence of Article 25 is it protects the practice of innocent faith and not a mere display of religious identity or jingoism,” lawyer Devdatt Kamat said in court, PTI reported.

Article 25 gives people the equal entitlement “to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion” as long as these are subject to public order, morality and health.

A three-Judge bench led by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justices J M Khazi and Krishna M Dixit, have been hearing multiple petitions filed in the matter.

The students of Government Girl’s Pre-University College began a protest on January 13, almost two weeks after college authorities issued an order banning the hijab inside classrooms.

The students approached Karnataka high court on January 29, but a row had already broken out across the southern state and several other parts of the country.

“To counter that (hijab), if somebody wears a shawl (saffron shawl), they will have to show whether it is a display of religious identity alone, or is it something more. If it is sanctioned by Hinduism by our Vedas, Upanishads, our scriptures, our lordships are duty bound to protect it. If not, then the Article 25 does not protect,” Kamat argued.

Kamat, who concluded arguments on Tuesday, cited several judgements from other countries, including South Africa and Canada, to make his point.

He also cited the case of Sonali Pillai, who challenged her school’s order in court when she was restricted from wearing a nose ring. Kamat said Pillai won the case.

The petitioners have argued against a February 4 government order that states that schools and colleges will continue with the prescribed practice as was there at the beginning of the academic year. That is, if a school or college allowed hijab, then this practice would continue, leading to confusion and contest by the petitioners.

Lawyer Ravi Varma Kumar, representing a section of the students, said the government order added that the college development committee (CDC) will prescribe uniforms and until then, clothes that don’t threaten public order should not be worn.

Advocates for the petitioners have argued that wearing the hijab or burqa has not threatened public order as Muslim women wear it in public places.

“Education Act is a complete code. This college development committee is a non-existent body under the statute. It is an extra-legal authority which is now endowed with the power to prescribe the uniform, contrary to the scheme of the act and letter of the rules,” Kumar said, according to Livelaw.

The government had forced shut all schools and colleges in the state for a period of three days from last Wednesday after students from the same institutions faced off, asserting their religious identities.

The Karnataka high court in its order last Thursday directed schools to reopen, but added that no religious attire will be allowed until a final verdict is pronounced in the case.

The court is scheduled to continue hearings of the case on Wednesday afternoon.

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