The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday dismissed various petitions challenging a ban on hijab in education institutions. The High Court said wearing hijab is not an essential religious 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 the Islamic faith," the court said, adding that the prescription of school uniform is a reasonable restriction which student could not object to.
The court said, "We are dismayed as to how all of a sudden that too in the middle of the academic term the issue of hijab is generated and blown out of proportion by the powers that be. The way, hijab imbroglio unfolded gives scope for the argument that some ‘unseen hands’ are at work to engineer social unrest and disharmony."
The court said no case is being made out for invalidating the government order of February 5. The full bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khazi was constituted on February 9 on a petition filed by girls from Udupi who prayed that they should be allowed to wear hijab even inside the classroom along with the school uniform as it was part of their faith.
The demand by a section of girls in a Udupi pre-university college to wear hijab inside their classrooms erupted into a major row after some Hindu students turned up in saffron shawls with the issue spreading to other parts of the state, even as the government insisted on a uniform norm.
Welcoming the court order, Union Minister Prahlad Joshi said, "I welcome the court's decision. I appeal to everyone that the state and country have to go forward, everyone has to maintain peace by accepting the order of the high court. The basic work of students is to study. So leaving all this aside they should study and be united."
On January 1, 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. This was four days after they requested the principal permission to wear hijab in classes which was not allowed. Till then, students used to wear the headscarf to the campus, but entered the classroom after removing it, college principal Rudre Gowda had said.
As the issue of Hijab versus saffron scarves spread to several educational institutions in many parts of Karnataka, the state government announced a holiday from February 9 to February 15 in all the pre-university colleges and from February 9 to February 16 in degree and diploma colleges. The girls then approached the Karnataka High Court seeking relief and quashing the government order on February 5 restraining students from wearing any cloth that could disturb, peace, harmony and public order. The full bench of the High Court has been hearing the case on a day-to-day basis since February 10.
In its interim order, the bench asked the state government to reopen the educational institutions, which were hit by the agitation, and restrained students from wearing Hijab and saffron scarves in the classroom till the final order is delivered.
With inputs from PTI