Nothing more important than education, concludes Bommai after hijab row verdict. Here's what others are saying

The Karnataka High Court delivered its judgment in the highly contentious hijab case and the aftermath has seen some charged reactions from all quarters
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

In light of the verdict in the hijab case by the High Court of Karnataka, the state's Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has said that nothing is more important than education and that the matter concerned the future and education of the students. Bommai's statement comes after the full-judge Bench of the Karnataka High Court dismissed the petitions filed by a group of Muslim girl students of Udupi's Government Pre-University College. The girls had alleged that the PUC was preventing them from entering the campus in their hijabs and that this was a violation of their fundamental rights. 

The girls also claimed that wearing a hijab was an essential religious practice and was, therefore, guaranteed protection under the Constitution. However, after 11 days of hearing pleas, the High Court concluded that the petitions lacked merit and that the hijab was not an essential religious practice, and that educational institutions are well within their rights to enforce their prescribed uniforms. 

The verdict, which was pronounced by a Bench consisting of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice JM Khazi and Justice KS Dixit, has been challenged in the Supreme Court via a Special Leave Petition. The six students who had filed the original writ petition said that they felt betrayed by the judgment and that they believe the hijab is an essential part of their religion. "We will take every legal step. We will not compromise on our fundamental rights," said the students. 

Educational institutions in Udupi and Shivamogga districts have declared holidays and Section 144 has been imposed in areas around educational institutions in other districts. Karnataka's Education Minister BC Nagesh took to Twitter to hail the verdict and said, "I welcome Landmark judgement of Hon'ble Karnataka High Court on School/College uniform Rules. It reiterated that the law of the land is above everything." When protests by Muslim students started gaining ground across the state in February, the Karnataka government had issued a Government Order on February 5, directing students to follow the prescribed uniform. This GO was also challenged by the petitioners, who said that it lacked an application of the mind and was arbitrary. The court, however, dismissed these objections and upheld the state's right to issue the GO.

Just a week ago, on March 8, the Higher Education Minister of Karnataka, Dr CN Ashwathnarayan called for students to follow the prescribed dress code strictly. "There is no question of wearing any religious attire there as the uniform is in place for all, irrespective of caste, community and religion. The uniform norm has not been brought now or it has not been implemented by the BJP government. It has been existing for a long time," said Dr Ashwathnarayan, who was speaking virtually at the10th ThinkEdu Conclave organised by The New Indian Express.

Meanwhile, Yashpal Suvarna, Vice-President of the CDC at the Government PU College, Udupi, welcomed the verdict and added that it paved the way for proper academic pursuit for students. Heavy police presence was noted near the college in Udupi, as well as near Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi's residence.

Not all were in agreement with the decision. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao questioned the government's interference in the people's choice of dress. "It is being projected as an issue out of nothing. Where will the country go with such narrow-mindedness?" he asked during Telangana's Assembly session today.

Aliya Assadi, one of the petitioners in the case, said, "I completely disagree with the high court's declaration that the hijab is not an essential part of the religion. If that had been the case, I wouldn't have struggled so much and compromised my studies to this extent. I refuse to give up and will continue fighting for my right to wear the hijab."

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