India

Students were goaded into wearing hijab to school by PFI through social media, Karnataka tells SC

Students who refused to attend classes coming out from G. Shankar Govt First Grade College in Udupi on Wednesday, and (below) students attending class wearing hijabs in Bengaluru.

Students who refused to attend classes coming out from G. Shankar Govt First Grade College in Udupi on Wednesday, and (below) students attending class wearing hijabs in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: H.S. MANJUNATH

Karnataka in Supreme Court on September 20, 2022 said students were goaded into wearing hijab to school by the Popular Front of India (PFI) through social media messages.

Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Hemant Gupta, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said no student was insisting on hijab till 2022.

Mr. Mehta said the agitation on hijab was part of a "larger conspiracy" orchestrated by the PFI to create social unrest.

Now, other students are insisting on wearing saffron shawls to classrooms. Both hijab and saffron shawls are prohibited. The State circular notifying educational institutions to stick to their prescribed uniforms was "religion neutral".

"A movement was started in 2022 on social media by the PFI… Continuous messages were sent to start wearing hijab. This was not a spontaneous act by a few children but part of a larger conspiracy and children were acting as advised," Mr. Mehta argued.

He said a chargesheet has been filed in the matter and he would place it on record.

The Bench pointed to an averment made by one of the student petitioners that she had been wearing hijab and was suddenly stopped by her school.

Mr. Mehta said nobody had insisted on hijab or saffron shawls till 2021. In 2022, agitations have suddenly sprang up with children insisting on hijab or saffron shawls.

"If the government had not acted, it would have been a dereliction of duty. The circular was secular. It is not that one particular community was stopped from wearing hijab. All students had to adhere to their respective prescribed uniforms. The circular was religion neutral," the law officer submitted.

He said how the High Court had registered its dismay over the agitations happening in the middle of the academic year.

"We have the power to issue directions to the institutions to implement uniform… There was no disparity shown among students," Mr. Mehta emphasised.

He said hijab at best could be categorised as a “permissible practice” and not an “essential religious practice” in Islam.

But Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, on the Bench, said religious leaders and not courts were ideally placed to establish what made an essential religious practice. The Karnataka High Court could have avoided delving into the question in the hijab case. Judicial review ought to be confined to examining whether a religious practice violates public order, health or morality.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave had wound up the petitioner side’s submissions by arguing that the High Court had erred in testing the legality of wearing hijab in public places on the touchstone of “essential religious practice”.

Mr. Dave said it was the right of a Muslim woman to choose to cover her head.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2022 9:45:37 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/students-were-goaded-into-wearing-hijab-to-school-by-pfi-through-social-media-karnataka-tells-sc/article65913403.ece