Hijab issue: Karnataka HC concludes hearing, reserves verdict

The Karnataka High Court bench on Friday concluded hearing petitions seeking the right to wear hijab while attending classes and asked all counsel to submit written submissions as it reserved its verdict.

The three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justices Krishna S. Dixit, and J.M. Khazi heard arguments and counter-arguments for 11 days on a day today basis considering the urgency and sensitivity of the matter.

Counsel appearing for petitioners who are college students maintained that the government order issued in this regard does not have any legal standing and it violated their fundamental right to practice of religion and thereby denied them right to education which is paramount. They also argued that the constitution of the College Development Committee (CDC), and the School Development and Management Committee (SDMC) do not have legal sanctity.

They also questioned the appointment of political representatives attached to an ideology being given decision-making power in an academic environment. They also noted that there is no provision to prescribe uniforms in the act.

The government, through Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, argued that the government has no role in taking decisions on wearing of hijab, and it is left to the discretion of the CDCs and SDMCs.

The AG argued that wearing of hijab is not an essential part of Islam and the government certainly has the authority to take decisions when it comes to public order, health, and morality. The bench was also informed on fundamental rights, individual in nature, being subjected to restrictions.

The government has also submitted intelligence inputs and reports on the role of Campus Front of India (CFI) and other organisations in raking up the issue all of a sudden. The verdict is eagerly awaited as the issue has been discussed at the international levels.

The hijab row which started from Udupi Pre-University Girls’ College has become a crisis in the state, with students refusing to attend classes without hijab and maintaining that they will wait until the final verdict is given. Though the high court had issued an interim order banning both hijab and saffron shawls or scarves inside the classrooms, but the agitation is ongoing.

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