Karnataka hijab row: 4 questions the high court asked (and the answers)
Hijab row: Petitioners argued wearing the hijab is an essential religious practice under Islam and suspension, even for a few hours, violates fundamental rights under the Constitution.
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday ruled that the wearing of the hijab is not an essential practice in Islam. "We are of the considered opinion wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith," the bench led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi said. The court, which has over the past few weeks been hearing petitions challenging the hijab ban, said it had asked itself four questions.
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The four questions were:
1. Whether the wearing of the hijab is essential religious practice under Islam,
2. Whether the prescription of school uniform is violative of rights,
3. Whether the Feb 5 government order (which barred students from wearing clothing that could 'disturb peace, harmony, and law and order), apart from being incompetent and manifestly arbitrary, violates Articles 14 and 15, and
4. Whether there is any case to be made out for issuance of disciplinary inquiry against college authorities.
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The court's answer to these questions were as follows:
1. Wearing of hijab is not part of essential religious practice under Islam.
The court elaborated that no material had been placed on record to prima facie show that wearing the hijab was an essential religious practice.
"... it can hardly be argued that hijab, being a matter of attire, can be justifiably treated as fundamental to Islamic faith. It is not (as) if the alleged practice of wearing hijab is not adhered... those not wearing hijab become sinners (and) Islam loses its glory..." the court argued.
"Petitioners have miserably failed to meet the threshold requirement of pleadings and proof as to wearing hijab is an inviolable religious practice in Islam and much less a part of 'essential religious practice’."
2. School uniform is a reasonable restriction that students can't object.
"...idea of schooling is incomplete without teachers... and the dress code. No reasonable mind can imagine a school without uniform. After all, the concept of school uniform is not of a nascent origin..." the court said, referring to 'uniforms... since the ancient gurukul days'.
3. The government has the power to issue an order.
4. We are of the considered opinion that no case is to be made out for issuance of a direction for intimating disciplinary inquiry… (this was in reference to an argument that the principal and teachers of the college were violating departmental guidelines that prohibit prescription of any un.
READ: ‘Wearing hijab not essential practice in Islam' - Karnataka high court
During the course of this hearing, the students argued wearing the hijab is an essential religious practice under Islam and its suspension, even for a few hours, violates fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 25 of the Constitution.
The state argued the petitioners were seeking to declare the hijab as an 'essential religious practice', which, if accepted, would bind every Muslim woman to follow a particular dress code.
READ: Pralhad Joshi welcomes hijab verdict, Mufti says 'deeply disappointing'
The row over the wearing of hijabs erupted in January after two government colleges in the coastal districts of Udupi and Mangaluru barred girls from entering the classroom while wearing the hijab.
This triggered a growing cascade of protests and, in some cases, violent stand-offs between those supporting the right to wear the hijab and those against it.
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Protests escalated dramatically after fringe Hindu groups mobilised men wearing saffron shawls to stop women in hijabs from entering schools and colleges.
Clashes broke out in Shivamogga district and others, prompting the Karnataka government to issue a controversial order on February 5 that said students would not be allowed to attend classes if they insisted on wearing a hijab.