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Hijab not essential religious practice, school uniforms constitutionally permissible: HC

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Bengaluru, Mar 15: The Karnataka High Court has said that Hijab is not an essential religious practise in Islam. The court also said that the prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction and is constitutionally permissible.

Hijab not essential religious practise in Islam: High Court

The demand by a section of Muslim girls in an 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.

While rejecting a batch of petitions, the court said that the prescription of a school uniform is only a reasonable restriction. The prescription of a school uniform is also constitutionally permissible, the Bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi said.

During the course of the argument, the petitioners argued that the government order in this regard is incompetent and was issued without application of mind. In the court the government argued that it was being unwontedly dragged into the matter.

The Advocate General during his submissions was referring to a Government Order of February 5, restricting students from wearing cloth which can disturb peace, harmony and law and order. The Court today however said that there was nothing wrong with the order of the government and hence it would not interfere.

Explaining the reason behind issuing the order prohibiting clothes that could disturb peace and harmony, the AG said the intention was only to ask the students not to wear indecent dress "but it did not say anything more or less than that."

On the charge that the GO was against hijab, the AG said the question of hijab was not there unless they want him to read something which he was not able to read. The court said that the government has the power to issue the order and no case has been made out for its invalidation.

The three judge Bench 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.

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.

"The institution did not have any rule on hijab-wearing since no one used to wear it to the classroom in the last 35 years. The students who came with the demand had the backing of outside forces," Gowda had said.

The bench of the High Court had 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.

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