The Karnataka High Court today upheld the hijab ban in the state’s education centres (schools, colleges and universities) and dismissed various petitions challenging the ban on the Islamic partial veil. The high court said that wearing the hijab was not an essential religious practice of Islam.
A full bench of the Karnataka High Court had been hearing the case on a day-to-day basis since 10 February.
Reacting to the high court order, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai appealed for peace and harmony. “All students should follow the high court order and should not boycott classes or examinations. We will have to abide by the court orders and will take strict action against those who would take law and order in hands,” Bommai said.
In its interim order earlier, the high court had restrained students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab, religious flags or the like, within the classrooms — until its verdict was pronounced. The court said, “… pending consideration of all these petitions, we restrain all the students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls, (saffron) scarves, hijab, religious flags or the like, within the classroom, until further orders.” It had said the order “is confined to such institutions wherein the college development committees have prescribed the student dress code/ uniform.”
The Karnataka High Court Tuesday said that the prescription of uniform is a reasonable restriction and upheld the hijab ban in colleges. It dismissed writ petitions filed by Muslim women students that had sought permission to wear hijab in colleges.
Police and education officials are hoping that the issue can be settled quickly and quietly, especially as the Class X exams in state schools are scheduled to begin on 28 March and the pre-university exams (for Classes XI and XII) are in April.
On 11 February, the Supreme Court had declined to grant urgent listing for an appeal against the High Court’s interim order, and asked the petitioners not to “spread” the controversy to “larger levels”.
“I don’t want to express anything. Don’t spread these things to larger levels…We also know what is happening there in the state as well as in the hearings also. And you also have to think over whether it’s proper to bring those things to Delhi, national-level issues and all that,” Chief Justice of India N V Ramana had told Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who was representing students from Udupi.
Editor’s note: While the Karnataka High Court verdict is welcome because it has successfully thwarted the Islamic attempt to dominate people’s mind-space with the exhibition of their religious attire, the fact that the judgment had to be based on its observation that the hijab was not mandated as compulsory in Islam is disconcerting. Modern secular states must not care for anything any religion mandates if it militates against the modern value system of democracy, the rule of the law and freedom of all rather than that of a community. However, if the court had not made this observation, allowing Sikhs to wear turbans would have been one of the few inconsistencies in the implementation of secularism. Noting that, in the long run, India must formulate an inviolable code that would appear equal to all and unfair to none, permitting only such religious practices where the freedom of one individual does not infringe on that of another.