How will students prepare for the great diversity of the country when none is allowed in their classrooms, wondered Supreme Court judge Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia on Wednesday.
Justice Dhulia, who is part of the Division Bench led by Justice Hemant Gupta, is hearing a series of petitions challenging the prohibition on wearing hijab in classrooms in Karnataka.
Petitioners, mostly students affected by the ban, have challenged a Karnataka High Court decision that wearing hijab is not an “essential religious practice” in Islam.
The State of Karnataka, represented by Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natraj and Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, argued on Wednesday that the uniform dress code in classrooms ensured equality among students. The children, he said, were not banned from wearing hijab outside their classrooms and the move by the State was religion-neutral. Students, regardless of their religion or belief, had been classed together. If one section of students insisted on wearing hijab, another would insist on wearing saffron shawls.
A college teacher from Udupi argued that schools should be free from the walls and separation created by religion.
Justice Dhulia asked whether he meant that the hijab had created a wall of separation.
The judge said hijab should be seen as an eye-opener, a window to prepare students for the diversity of the country in culture, dress, cuisine.