The Karnataka Hijab row has taken many twists and turns for the past few days, with security forces on Friday conducting a flag march in three cities as communal tensions continued in the southern State.
The security forces went on flag marches in three towns in Karnataka – Udipi, Chitradurga and Doddaballapura following the state High Court’s interim order today said no religious attire, whether shawls or hijab, will be allowed inside educational institutions.
Schools and colleges were shut down earlier this week over the hijab row. The protests against a hijab ban in one government-run college in Udupi spread to many other institutions where girls wearing hijabs were not allowed entry. As saffron scarf-wearing students launched counter-protests, violence at one college forced the police to fire teargas to control the flare-up.
Supreme Court Rejects An Urgent Hearing
The petitioners have already approached the Supreme Court against the order following the interim order by Dr J Halli Federation of Masajids Madaaris and Wakf Institutions v. the State of Karnataka.
The appeal was mentioned before Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Friday, who said that the top court would hear the matter at an appropriate time.
“Constitutional rights are for everybody, and this CourtCourt will protect it. We will list at an appropriate time,” the CJI said.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said that the CourtCourt is following the controversy and the proceedings before the Karnataka High Court and asked parties not to escalate things to a national level.
“Don’t spread these things to larger levels. We are watching, and we know what is happening in the State and the High Court also…Let us see, and we will interfere at the appropriate time,” the CJI said.
Karnataka High Court Passed Interim Order
A bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Judges Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi in the four petitions filed by Muslim girl students in Karnataka claimed that they were not being allowed to enter colleges on account of the government order, which effectively bans the wearing of the hijab (headscarves).
The CourtCourt passed an interim order that banned hijab and saffron shawls (bhagwa) or the use of any religious flags while attending classes.
The CourtCourt clarified that the order extended to only colleges with a prescribed dress code/ uniform. Hence, colleges that do not have a specified dress code would not be covered by the order.
The interim order was uploaded on the High Court website on Friday. However, Chief Justice remarked the same on Thursday evening.
The Bench, in its order, expressed its pain at the ongoing agitations and closure of educational institutions in the State, mainly when the matter which deals with significant constitutional issues and personal law is currently being heard in the Court.
“It hardly needs to be mentioned that ours is a country of plural cultures, religions & languages. Being a secular state, it does not identify itself with any religion as its own. Every citizen has the right to profess & practise any faith of choice, which is true. However, such a right not being absolute is susceptible to reasonable restrictions as provided by the Constitution of India,” the CourtCourt noted.
Whether wearing a hijab in the classroom is a part of essential religious Islamic practice and should be a constitutional guarantee needed deeper examination, the CourtCourt added.
“Ours being a civilized society, no person in the name of religion, culture or the like can be permitted to do any act that disturbs public peace & tranquillity. Endless agitations and closure of educational institutions indefinitely are not happy things to happen,” the CourtCourt stated.
It also emphasized that students’ educational career should not be negatively impacted due to the present controversy, and they should return to class.
The CourtCourt, therefore, called upon all stakeholders and the public to maintain peace while restraining students from wearing religious garments in institutions that have a prescribed dress code or uniform.
The matter will be heard by the CourtCourt next on February 14, 2022.