Amidst the row over Muslim girl students wearing hijab being barred into pre-university classes in Udupi district, the State Government on Saturday issued an order stating that students have to comply with the uniform/dress code prescribed by College Development Committees.
The order comes even as a few girl students from Udupi, on being denied entry into classrooms for wearing hijab, have approached the High Court over the issue. Five colleges in the district have witnessed row over hijab-wearing Muslim girls and Hindu students who wore saffron shawls as a counter being denied entry to classrooms.
The order said that some students following their religious tenets in the classrooms had adversely impacted “equality and unity” in colleges. It said that even in cases where the College Development Committees have not prescribed a uniform/dress code, students have to wear dresses that maintains “equality and unity and doesn’t hamper public order.”
Though uniform is not mandatory in colleges, College Development Committees, often headed by local MLAs, have been insisting on a dress code, including banning hijabs, in Udupi and other districts. With this order, the government has upheld the authority of the CMCs on imposing a dress code in colleges.
“Invoking 133 (2) of the Karnataka Education Act-1983, which says a uniform style of clothes has to be worn compulsorily. The private school administration can choose a uniform of their choice,” the government order said.
The government had recently announced an expert committee to look into the dress code issue in colleges. But the order issued on Saturday clearly sides with the College Development Committees.
The preamble to the operative part of the order, issued under Karnataka Education Act, 1983, stated that a ban on hijab was not illegal. Quoting three orders from Kerala, Bombay and Madras High Courts, the government said in its order that the courts have in multiple cases held mandating students not to wear a headscarf or to come to classrooms without covering their heads was not a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of India, that provides freedom of religion. The students denied entry for wearing hijab have contended that it is a violation.
Meanwhile, Arvind Narrain, President, People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Karnataka, said that the government order was discriminatory and will be challenged legally. “The government’s order cannot violate Article 14 and 25 of the Constitution,” he said.