Karnataka High Court on Tuesday appealed to the student community and the public at large to maintain peace and tranquility while the hearing on the hijab row is going on. The court's appeal came after the Advocate General (AG) PK Navadgi urged the judges to intervene to halt the escalating protests in the state over the hijab row.
"This court has full faith in the wisdom and virtue of the public at large, and hopes the same will be put to practice, Justice Krishna Dixit said.
Students in Karnataka are protesting a ban imposed on wearing hijab while attending classes. On December 28, 2021 eight Muslim students were denied entry into the government-run PU College for Girls in Udupi because they were wearing a hijab. Months after continued protests, hijab-wearing girls were allowed entry. However, they were simply made to sit in a classroom separate from the one they usually sat in, and no lectures were conducted for them.
Even as the protests on the ground escalated, a different battle—one for the enforcement of fundamental rights— is now being fought before the Karnataka High Court with a batch of pleas challenging the February 5 government order, banning the hijab in government colleges.
At the onset of the hearing in the hijab row, the Karnataka state government told the high court that the question of whether wearing a hijab at an educational institution is a fundamental right must be answered.
The Advocate General (AG), representing the state, added that the government gave autonomy to the College Development Committee to decide on a dress code for the campus. "If a college wants exemption (in the dress code) it could apply for the same before the CDC," the AG added.
BOOM recaps the arguments and observations made in court today.
Cannot see students protesting, not a happy scene: Karnataka HC
At the onset of the hearing, Justice Krishna Dixit remarked that on the TV he saw daily news about student protests which was "not a happy scene". Many other countries are looking at us, he added.
Considering the attention the case was garnering, Justice Dixit added, "We will go by reason, by law, not by passion or emotions. We will go by what Constitution says. Constitution is the Bhagavad Gita for me. I have taken the oath to abide by Constitution."
Toward the end of the hearing, he reiterated the need for looking at the case with common sense and logic as opposed to emotions when senior advocate Devdatt Kamat, representing a Muslim student, apprised the court of how Muslim girls were being heckled by the public.
"I am giving a patient hearing. People should have faith in Constitution. Only a mischievous section will keep the issue burning. But making agitation, going on the street, shouting slogans, attacking students, students attacking others, these are not good things," Justice Dixit said. "Do not disturb the Court. You should leave the judges to peace. Violence on the street should not affect my decision-making abilities also," he added appealing for peace.
Wearing a hijab is an essential religious practice: Muslim student to HC
The court was hearing a Muslim student's plea today which essentially sought to declare wearing a hijab a fundamental right and an essential religious practice in accordance with the rights accorded by the constitution.
Senior advocate Devdatt Kamat, who was representing the Muslim girl, referred to various texts from the Quran to buttress the point that wearing a hijab was 'hadith' or an essential religious practice as prescribed in the Quran.
Wearing a hijab, and not the burqa or veil, is part of an essential religious practice, as prescribed by the Holy Quran and therefore the State cannot direct against Quranic injunctions, Kamat said.
Kamat added that wearing a hijab was not only protected by one's fundamental right to free speech and expression but was also a facet of one's right to privacy. "The threshold of 'public order' is extremely high to restrict this right, he said. "A state cannot decide what is an essential religious practice, only constitutional courts can," Kamat added.
Personally, I may disagree, Kamat said. "Why should children wear a headscarf? But my view is irrelevant and inconsequential, my lordships have said it is the belief of the community and as long as that belief is there we cannot sit over judgment," he added. Referring to the escalating protests Kamat said, "We are not trying to incite anybody or create a disturbance. Right from admission, we have been quietly practicing our faith. Now to give a colour of public order this is an attempt to put the cart before the horse."
Kamat questioned the state's argument that wearing a hijab disturbed public order. "When I joined the college, there was no public order issue. All these years, there was no public order issue. If it is a public order issue, how is it that when Muslim women wear hijab outside, it is not a public order issue and it becomes a public order issue when they enter college? When they go to market, it is not an issue but in college, there is a public order issue?," asked Kamat.
"We are GSB brahmins and we wear a naman and go to school. Can the school say it affects public order? Or a Sikh who is wearing a turban, can the state say it affects public order?" Kamat argued.
To this, Justice Krishna Dixit argued, that if he carried the baby of a swine at a market, no one would think twice about it apart from terming him eccentric. However, if he did the same and carried the baby of a swine in a religious institution like a temple, church, or mosque the action was bound to disturb public order.
Tomorrow, the court will continue hearing arguments from intervenors and the state.
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