Published: 14th March 2022
Breaking: K'taka High Court to deliver verdict in hijab case tomorrow. Live updates here
In its interim order, the court had prohibited the wearing of any items of religious clothing, including hijab in educational institutions with a prescribed uniform in Karnataka
After 11 days of hearing, continuous nationwide coverage and the education of young girls thrown in jeopardy, the Karnataka High Court will pronounce its judgment in what has come to be called the 'Hijab Case'.
The issue began in December last year after a group of Muslim students of the Government Pre-University College in Udupi alleged that the administration wasn't letting them attend classes with their hijab on. Their protest caught the eye of the public and soon spread to other corners of the state, with colleges denying entry to hijab-clad girls, who in turn took to the streets in protest. This was countered by a group of students wearing saffron shawls and that is when things turned violent, and the Government of Karnataka had to shut schools and colleges.
The administration had also passed a government order on February 5, saying that all students must follow the dress code of their respective educational institution and adding that the right to wear a hijab cannot be claimed under Article 25 as they concluded that it was not an essential religious practice.
Meanwhile, the girls filed a petition in the High Court claiming that the college was infringing upon their Constitutional rights under Article 19 (a) and Article 25, among others. These include freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. The matter, which brought into question whether or not the hijab is an essential religious practice or not, led to various interpretations of the Quran and the Constitution, in the court by the two sides.
On February 9, Justice Dixit, who was earlier hearing the petitioner, transferred it to a full Bench of the High Court for the hearing, which commenced on February 10. In its interim order on that date, the court directed that all educational institutions be reopened again. However, it barred students from wearing any items of religious clothing to classes, including hijab or saffron shawls, until the case was decided upon, despite protests from petitioners that they cannot suspend their faith for a few days.
In the following hearings, the court was told by Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi that the GO was "innocuous" and that it put the onus on the institutions to decide on the uniform. He also said that the prohibition on the hijab was during class hours only and not broadly inside the educational institution. Advocate Ravivarma Kumar argued that these girls were being targetted based on their religious identity and that there is no harm in allowing them to wear the hijab. Advocate Devadatt Kamat, in his reply to the AG, said that banning religious symbols from public view was contrary to the intentions of the Constituent Assembly.
The full-judge Bench, consisting of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice JM Khazi and Justice KS Dixit, concluded the hearing in the case on February 25 and had reserved their judgment after considering arguments from both sides.