Karnataka High Court To Hear Muslim Student’s Plea Against Hijab Ban In Govt College On Feb 8

The Karnataka High Court will hear on February 8 the writ petition filed by a Muslim girl student challenging the action of a government college in denying her entry for wearing a hijab.

When the matter came on Thursday before a bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit, the counsel for the state submitted that the Advocate General will be appearing in the matter. Accordingly, the petition was adjourned to next Tuesday.

The petition has been filed in the Karnataka High Court by a Muslim girl student, seeking a declaration that wearing a hijab (head scarf) is a Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 14 and 25 of the Constitution of India and is an essential practise of Islam.
The student of the Government-run Pre-University (PU) College for Girls in Udupi district, is aggrieved by the alleged illegal and discriminatory action taken by the PU College which has denied her entry into the college on the sole ground of wearing a hijab.

The petition is filed through Advocates Shathabish Shivanna, Arnav A Bagalwadi & Abhishek Janardhan.
It states that on December 28, 2021 the petitioner and other female students who profess Ismalic faith were denied entry into the college premises and have been barred from attending the classes held in the college.
It is said “The college has denied entry and access on the grounds that they were wearing a hijab.” It was the stand of the college that petitioners and other similar placed students have violated the dress code of the college by merely wearing a hijab.

The plea states that the Constitution of India guarantees the Freedom of Conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate religion while reserving the state’s right to interfere with the religious matter only if it involves an issue relating to public order, morality and health.

In this light, it is contended that banning the hijab can only be done by invoking an interest of public order or morals of the society. However, that is not the case here.

The plea adds, “The manner in which the respondent college has ousted the petitioner not only creates a stigma amongst her batchmates but among the children of the entire college which in turn will affect the mental health as well as future prospects of the petitioner.”
Further the plea says “The college has curtailed the right to education of the petitioner on the sole ground of religion is smacked with malfides, discriminatory and politically motivated. By doing so the state government has failed in its duty to realise the right to human development by denying the petitioner her education.”

The petition also states, “Protection under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution is not limited to the matters of doctrine. They also extend to acts done in furtherance of religion and therefore they contain a guarantee for rituals and observances, ceremonies and mode of worship, which are integral part of the religion.

It is argued that the right of women to have the choice of dress based on religious injunctions is a fundamental right protected under Article 25 (1), when such prescription of dress is an essential part of the religion.

Reliance is placed on the case of Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Sri. Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri. Shirur Mutt (1954 SCR 1005), where the Supreme Court has held that Freedom of Religion in our Constitution is not confined to religious beliefs only; it extends to religious practices also.

The plea refers to verses from the Holy Quran and states that taking away the practice of wearing the hijab from women who profess the Islamic faith, results in a fundamental change in the character of Islamic religion. For this reason the practise of wearing the hijab constitutes as an essential and integral part of Islam, it adds.
Further it is said that shariah mandates women to wear the headscarf and therefore the action of the college in banning the headscarf within the premise of the college is repugnant to protection of religious freedom as provided under Article 25 (1).
The petition prays for a direction upon the respondent college not to interfere with the petitioners fundamental right to practise the essential practises of her religion, including wearing of hijab to the University while attending classes.

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