‘No religious symbols for now’

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Karnataka HC interim order bars both hijab and saffron shawls in school and college premises, reports Asian Lite News

Amid unrest and violence over the wearing of hijab by some students, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday ruled that no religious symbols are allowed for students until its final order, thus barring both hijab and saffron shawls in school and college premises.

“We want to make an interim order on the matter of hijab row. Peace has to return to the state. Schools and colleges must open soon. This is not the final order. Until the final order is given, students must attend the schools in uniform without hijab or saffron shawls,” Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, who is heading a three-judge bench hearing the matter held.

The orders have been given orally and written orders are yet to issued.

“We will hear the matter every day and issue orders soon,” CJ Awasthi said.

The bench, which also comprises Justice Krishna S. Dixit, and Justice Khaji Jaibunnesa Mohiyuddin, declined, at this stage, the arguments of petitioners seeking orders to the government for allowing students to wear hijab to classrooms.

Earlier, while hearing the arguments, the Chief Justice told Advocate General Prabhuling Navadagi to open schools in the state.

“Closure of schools is not a good development. Take necessary action and conduct classes. See to it that no problem surfaces,” he stated.

Amid tensions, the state government on Tuesday announced a three-day holiday for schools and colleges.

During the hearing, senior counsel Sanjay Hegde, appearing for a petitioner, submitted that the Karnataka government has no right to frame rules on uniform, as per the 1983 Karnataka Education Act.

The rules on uniform could be framed by the College Development Committee (CDC) and School Development and Management Committee (SDMC), he maintained.

“How judicious it is to force prohibitions for the reason of hijab… if prohibitions are clamped for the public interest, it is tenable. The medical student was allowed to write examinations wearing hijab in 2015 as per the court orders. Wearing of dress comes under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court decision in the Divya Yadav case discussed the right to wear dresses of their choice,” he said.

As per Article 25 (1), wearing of hijab is a religious right. Sikhs are permitted to carry a dagger and are given exemptions from wearing helmets, he added.

“The girl students can’t be made to sit on roads. Karnataka state contributes highest taxes to the Central government. Most startups come up here and these developments will bring disrepute to the state. Discrimination should not be made on the basis of clothes, colour, and religion,” the counsel argued.

The petitioners arguing for hijab stated that there is no harm in students wearing it. Hijab is a fundamental right and it does not cause any problem to others, and so, they should be allowed to wear hijab of the same colour as their uniform, they said, arguing that the government has issued circular on uniform “hurriedly”.

The petitioners further stated that the bench should give an interim order on the issue in the students’ interests as students are outside schools. They also argued that as per the Karnataka Education Act, uniform is not compulsory for students and they only be fined Rs 25 for violating the uniform rules.

As Chief Justice Awasthi intervened here, asking whether the petitioner is saying uniform is not required, the petitioner submitted that as per act, it is not compulsory. It is okay for primary school students but uniforms for college students is being objected, he said.

Navadagi, however, opposed issue of an interim order on the issue and stated that there are various developments surrounding the issue.

Earlier, the single bench headed by Justice Dixit, which heard the matter, which has snowballed into a major crisis in the state and discussed at international levels, decided the matter to be heard by the larger bench. It directed the High Court Registrar to submit the documents and petitions immediately to the Chief Justice as the matter is of utmost importance and needs to be heard urgently.

Rethink before appeal in SC, says, CJI

hief Justice N.V. Ramana on Friday orally told the counsel of a petitioner, challenging the Karnataka High Court interim order in the Hijab matter, to think whether it is proper to bring the issue at the national level.

Senior advocate Devadutt Kamat mentioned the plea challenging the Karnataka High Court before a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana. Kamat submitted that the high court has restrained the students from disclosing their religious identities, which results in suspension of Article 25 and this will lead into larger consequences.

The Chief Justice said: “Court is already hearing the matter”. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the high court order has not come out so far and it should be allowed to decide the issue. Mehta emphasized that the matter should not be made either religious or political.

Chief Justice orally observed, “Don’t spread these things to a larger level…we don’t want to express anything on it.”

Justice Ramana told Kamat, “We are watching it and we know what is happening. Think, is it proper to bring it to the national level..”

Kamat mentioned the plea by a petitioner challenging the Karnataka High Court’s interim order to students not to insist on wearing religious attire till the court has decided the matter.

The Chief Justice emphasized that if there is constitutional rights’ violation of any one it would intervene at the appropriate time and its responsibility to protect constitutional rights of everyone.

The top court declined to go into the merits of the matter. “We will take it up at an appropriate time,” said the bench.

Another plea has been filed through advocates Rahamatullah Kothwal and Adeel Ahmed said: “The right to wear hijab falls under right to expression under Article 19(1)(a), right to privacy and freedom of conscience under Article 25. The same cannot be infringed upon without a valid law.” The college administration has resisted a group of students’ insistence to wear Hijab. The matter has triggered reaction, where others have worn saffron shawls.

Adeel submitted before the bench that students’ practical exams are scheduled on February 15.

The plea filed by Mohamed Arif Jameel and D.J. Halli Federation of Masajids Madaaris and Wakf Institutions contended that the high court through its order has sought to curtail the fundamental right of Muslim student-women by not allowing them to wear the hijab and pursue their education. “It is, therefore, necessary that an appropriate order be made staying the operation of the impugned order till the disposal of this petition otherwise the purpose of filing of special leave petition may be defeated and the same may be rendered in-fructuous”, said the plea.

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