New Delhi, February 22
The Karnataka Government on Tuesday clarified before the High Court that minority unaided institutions were out of the purview of the hijab ban order.
During a live-streamed hearing on petitions challenging the ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions in the state, Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi made a categorical statement on the matter.
He, however, defended the ban, saying it was about maintaining institutional discipline and that there was no restriction on wearing hijab as such.
Countering the petitioner Muslim girls from Udupi district, who challenged the restriction on hijab inside educational institutions, Navadgi said the right to wear the headscarf falls under the category of 19(1)(a), and not under Article 25, as had been argued by the petitioners.
“The right to wear hijab falls under Article 19(1)(a) and not Article 25. If one wishes to wear hijab, there is no restriction ‘subject to the institutional discipline’. The rights claimed under Article 19(1)(a) is related to Article 19(2) where the government places a reasonable restriction subjected to institutional restriction,” Navadgi told the full Bench of the Karnataka HC.
Navadgi further said the institutional restriction in the present case is only inside the educational institutions and not anywhere else.
On Monday, he had insisted that the HC must decide if hijab was an essential practice of Islam, saying it was important to decide the issue as the petitioners had asserted it as a part of their right to religion.
He concluded his arguments by reciting Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics from the Hindi film Hamraj.
“Na munh chupa ke jiyo aur na sar jhuka ke jiyo (Neither live hiding your face nor bow down your head. Even in trying times, live with a smile on your face)…That is what every woman must be trained to..,” the Advocate General told a Bench led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, emphasising that dignity of women must be kept in mind.
On behalf of two school teachers, senior advocate R Venkataramani defended the hijab ban, saying different spaces in the community needed public order.
“Any measure on the part of the state and the part of the school to bring in discipline was right, as long as there is neutrality,” Venkataramani submitted.
“Whatever be your practice, if it comes into conflict with public order, health or morality, the state can say ‘I will stop you’,” he argued.
The hearing will resume on Wednesday.
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