Hijab not part of essential Islamic religious practice — K’taka HC
Bengaluru, March 15 (PTI): The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday said Hijab was not part of the essential religious practice in Islamic faith and effectively upheld the ban against the headscarf in educational institutions in the state by dismissing pleas from Muslim girls seeking nod to wear it in classrooms.
A three-judge full bench of the High Court said the prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to.
While the Karnataka government urged everyone to abide by the order, saying education was primary, Muslim students’ body Campus Front of India (CFI) protested against the “anti-constitutional order” and vowed to take all efforts to protect constitutional and individual rights.
The government also said it will make attempts to “win the hearts” of the “misguided” Muslim girls.
Six girl students of a college in Udupi had attended a press conference held by the CFI in the coastal town in January this year, protesting against the college authorities denying them entry into the classroom wearing Hijab.
On Tuesday, the Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi-led bench said, “we are of the considered opinion that wearing of Hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith.” The CJ read out portions from the order.
The other two judges in the panel were Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi.
The bench also maintained that the government has power to issue the impugned order dated February 5, 2022 and no case is made out for its invalidation.
By the said order, the Karnataka government had banned wearing clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges, which the Muslim girls had challenged in the High Court.
The bench 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 pale into insignificance and are accordingly disposed off,” the bench said in its order.
State Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said everyone should abide by the verdict of the High Court on the Hijab row, and cooperate with the state government in implementing it.
Speaking to reporters here, he said it was a matter concerning the future and the education of students, and nothing was more important than education.
“Everyone should abide by the verdict of the three-judge bench of the High Court. While we (govt) implement it (the order) everyone should cooperate and maintain peace. Maintaining peace and order in the society is of utmost importance. I appeal to the people, leaders of all communities, parents, teachers and students to accept the order and cooperate in imparting education to students, in accordance with the court order,” he added.
He also asked students not to boycott classes and exams as some of them did during the preparatory exams keeping their future in mind.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister B C Nagesh said efforts will be made to bring the ‘misguided’ Muslim girls to mainstream, even as he described the verdict as “landmark”.
“We will try to win the hearts of those girls who were misguided. We will try to bring them in the mainstream of education,” Nagesh told reporters.
“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.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan welcomed the court ruling. At the start of the Hijab controversy, Khan had said wearing of the headscarf was not an essential religious practice in Islamic faith.
“I sincerely pray and hope that these continuous attempts to push back the young women, especially young Muslim women, into the four walls of the house, fall down,” Khan said.
The Campus Front of India, responding to the HC order, said the “court verdict on Hijab ban destructs the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
“The BJP regime is trying to implement their agenda and dehumanise a community and the High Court verdict can now be a catalyst for their polarising agenda,” CFI said in a statement uploaded on Twitter.
“It is an alarming sign that the judiciary interprets religious texts…we will never accept this anti-constitutional verdict and will continue all efforts to protect the constitution and individual rights,” it added.
AIMIM leader and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi sought to “disagree” with the HC judgement and wanted the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and organisations of other religious groups to appeal against the order.
“…If it is MY belief & faith that covering my head is essential then I have a right to EXPRESS it as I deem fit. For a devout Muslim, Hijab is also an act of worship.”
“It’s time to review the essential religious practice test. For a devout person, everything is essential & for an atheist nothing is essential…” he said in a series of tweets.
Banning headscarf definitely harms devout Muslim women and their families as it prevents them from accessing education, he added.
PDP leader and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said, “Karnataka HC’s decision to uphold the Hijab ban is deeply disappointing.
“On one hand we talk about empowering women yet we are denying them the right to a simple choice. Its isn’t just about religion but the freedom to choose,” she wrote on Twitter.
National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said it was a “travesty” that the court did not uphold the basic right of a woman to choose how she wants to dress.