Karnataka High Court upholds hijab ban

Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court today dismissed petitions filed by a section of Muslim students, seeking permission to wear Hijab inside the classroom.

The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to, a three-judge bench of the court further noted.

‘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 HC said in its order. ‘The way, hijab imbroglio unfolded gives scope for the argument that some ‘unseen hands’ are at work to engineer social unrest and disharmony,’ it said.

The court ruled that prescription of school uniform does not violate either the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) or the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution, and the restriction against wearing of hijab in educational institutions is only a reasonable restriction constitutionally permissible, which the students cannot object to.

The petitioners, including a dozen Muslim students, told the court that wearing the hijab was a fundamental right guaranteed under India’s constitution and essential practice of Islam. After eleven days of the hearing, the High Court had reserved its judgment on 25 February.

The controversy over the hijab erupted in Karnataka late last year as students at a school in Udupi alleged that they were stopped from entering class wearing headscarves.

Reacting to today’s HC 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.