Karnataka High Court restrains students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab, religious flags in classrooms for now

Court requests the State Government and all other stakeholders to reopen the educational institutions and allow the students to return to classes at the earliest.

Updated - February 11, 2022 10:38 pm IST

Published - February 11, 2022 12:58 pm IST - Bengaluru

A file photo of students staging a protest outside Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College campus, in Udupi district on February 8, 2022.

A file photo of students staging a protest outside Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College campus, in Udupi district on February 8, 2022.

The High Court of Karnataka has restrained all students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls (bhagwa), scarfs, hijab, religious flags or the like within classrooms until further orders in the petitions pending consideration on the issue of right to wear hijab in classrooms.

While making it clear that “this order is confined to such of the institutions wherein the College Development Committees have prescribed the student dress code/uniform,” the court requested the State Government and all other stakeholders to reopen the educational institutions and allow the students to return to classes at the earliest.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, released its interim order on February 11.

“Ours being a civilised society, no person in the name of religion, culture or the like can be permitted to do any act that disturbs public peace and tranquility. Endless agitations and closure of educational institutions indefinitely are not happy things to happen,” the three-judge bench, also consisting of Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice Jaibunnisa M. Khazi, observed in its order.

“Firstly, we are pained by the ongoing agitations and closure of educational institutions since the past few days, especially when this court is seized of this matter and important issues of constitutional significance and of personal law are being seriously debated. It hardly needs to be mentioned that ours is a country of plural cultures, religions and languages. Being a secular State, it does not identify itself with any religion as its own,” the bench observed.

The bench also said that, “Every citizen has the right to profess and practice any faith of choice, is true. However, such a right not being absolute, is susceptible to reasonable restrictions as provided by the Constitution of India. Whether wearing of hijab in the classroom is a part of essential religious practice of Islam in the light of constitutional guarantees, needs a deeper examination. Several decisions of the apex court and other High Courts are being pressed into service.”

“The hearing of these matters on urgency basis is continuing. Elongation of academic terms would be detrimental to the educational career of students, especially when the timelines for admission to higher studies and courses are mandatory. The interest of students would be better served by their returning to classes than by the continuation of agitations and consequent closure of institutions. The academic year is coming to an end shortly. We hope and trust that all stakeholders and the public at large shall maintain peace and tranquility,” the bench said.

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