The Karnataka High Court, hearing the hijab row, on Thursday ordered that no religious symbols are allowed for the students until its final order, thus ruling out use of both hijab and saffron shawls in school and college premises.
The interim order was given by a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit, and Justice Khaji Jaibunnesa Mohiyuddin.
“We want to make an interim order on the matter of hijab row. We will hear the matter every day,” the Chief Justice stated.
Peace has to return to the state, and schools and colleges must open soon, the bench said, adjourning the matter to Monday.
Earlier, while hearing the arguments, the Chief Justice told Advocate General Prabhuling Navadagi to open schools in the state.
“Closure of schools is not a good development. Take necessary action and conduct classes. See to it that no problem surfaces,” he stated.
Amid tensions, the state government on Tuesday announced a three-day holiday for schools and colleges.
During the hearing, senior counsel Sanjay Hegde, appearing for a petitioner, submitted that the Karnataka government has no right to frame rules on uniform, as per the 1983 Karnataka Education Act.
The rules on uniform could be framed by the the College Development Committee (CDC) and School Development and Management Committee (SDMC), he maintained.
“How judicious it is to force prohibitions for the reason of hijab… if prohibitions are clamped for the public interest, it is tenable. The medical student was allowed to write examinations wearing hijab in 2015 as per the court orders. Wearing of dress comes under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court decision in the Divya Yadav case discussed the right to wear dresses of their choice,” he said.
As per Article 25 (1), wearing of hijab is a religious right. Sikhs are permitted to carry a dagger and are given exemptions from wearing helmets, he added.
“The girl students can’t be made to sit on roads. Karnataka state contributes highest taxes to the Central government. Most startups come up here and these developments will bring disrepute to the state. Discrimination should not be made on the basis of clothes, colour, and religion,” the counsel argued.
The petitioners arguing for hijab stated that there is no harm in students wearing it. Hijab is a fundamental right and it does not cause any problem to others, and so, they should be allowed to wear hijab of the same colour as their uniform, they said, arguing that the government has issued circular on uniform “hurriedly”.
The petitioners further stated that the bench should give an interim order on the issue in the students’ interests as students are outside schools. They also argued that as per the Karnataka Education Act, uniform is not compulsory for students and they only be fined Rs 25 for violating the uniform rules.
As Chief Justice Awasthi intervened here, asking whether the petitioner is saying uniform is not required, the petitioner submitted that as per act, it is not compulsory. It is okay for primary school students but uniforms for college students is being objected, he said.
Navadagi, however, opposed issue of an interim order on the issue and stated that there are various developments surrounding the issue.
Earlier, the single bench headed by Justice Dixit, which heard the matter, which has snowballed into a major crisis in the state and discussed at international levels, decided the matter to be heard by the larger bench. It directed the High Court Registrar to submit the documents and petitions immediately to the Chief Justice as the matter is of utmost importance and needs to be heard urgently.
The hijab row started last month with few students of Udupi Government Pre-University College wearing hijab being denied permission to attend classes. The college authorities maintain that the students who used to come without hijabs have suddenly started coming in hijab. The students later went on protest refusing to attend classes without hijab. The issue became a controversy and spread to other districts, leading to tension and even violence.