New Delhi, September 5
The Supreme Court on Monday sought to know if religious dresses could be worn in government-run institutions in a secular state.
On the first day of hearing on petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court’s March 15 verdict upholding the ban on hijab in schools in the state, a Bench led by Justice Hemant Gupta posed several questions to the parties as it attempted to fine-tune the legal issues to be finally answered.
“A person has a right to practise religion but the question is whether it can be taken to a school which has a prescribed uniform,” asked the Bench which also included Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and will resume hearing on September 7. “You may have a religious right to practise whatever you want to practise. But can you practise and take that right to a school which has uniform as a part of the dress you have to wear? That will be the question,” it told senior counsel Sanjay Hegde, who represented some of the petitioners.
Hegde said the top court’s ruling would have a bearing on the education of a large section of society as the hijab ban might result in denial of education to Muslim women. “What this court will rule, the whole world will listen,” another senior counsel Rajiv Dhavan said, adding that the top court’s decision would be of momentous importance.
Clarifying that the state was not saying it’s denying any right, the Bench said, “What the state is saying is that you come in a uniform which is prescribed for the students….” Dhavan sought to impress upon the Bench that the issues in the case involved substantial questions of law and interpretation of the Constitution and should be heard by a five-judge Bench in terms of Article 145.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi defended the February 5, 2022, government order in this regard. Navadgi insisted that “this government order does not interdict any of the rights of the students”.
Maintaining that the issue pertained to discipline in educational institutions, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj said, “Somebody in the guise of his religious practice or religious right cannot say that I am entitled to do this (wearing hijab), therefore I want to violate the discipline of the school.”
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