The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday dismissed petitions filed by a section of Muslim students from the Government Pre-University Girls College in Udupi, seeking permission to wear Hijab inside the classroom.
The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to, a three-judge bench of the court further noted.
"We are of the considered opinion that wearing of Hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith," Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi who headed the full bench of the High Court said reading out portion of the order.
The other two judges in the panel were Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi.
The bench also maintained that the government has power to issue impugned government order dated February 5, 2022 and no case is made out for its invalidation. By the said order, the state government had banned wearing clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges.
The court also rejected the plea to initiate a disciplinary inquiry against the college, its principal and a teacher.
"In the above circumstances, all these writ petitions being devoid of merits are liable to be and accordingly are dismissed. In view of the dismissal of the writ petition, all the pending applications fell into insignificance and are accordingly disposed off," the bench said in its order.The demand by a section of girls in an Udupi pre-university college to wear Hijab inside their classrooms erupted into a major row after some Hindu students turned up in saffron shawls with the issue spreading to other parts of the state, even as the government insisted on a uniform norm.
According to the lawyers appearing for the petitioner girls from Udupi district, the matter pertaining to Hijab case has been listed for Tuesday as serial No. 1 and the court may spell out the operative part of the verdict from 10.30 am onwards.
The full bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice J M Khazi was constituted on February 9 on a petition filed by girls from Udupi who prayed that they should be allowed to wear Hijab even inside the classroom along with the school uniform as it was part of their faith.
On January 1, six girl students of a college in Udupi attended a press conference held by the Campus Front of India (CFI) in the coastal town protesting against the college authorities denying them entry into classrooms wearing headscarves.
This was four days after they requested the principal permission to wear hijab in classes which was not allowed. Till then, students used to wear the headscarf to the campus, but entered the classroom after removing it, college principal Rudre Gowda had said.
"The institution did not have any rule on hijab-wearing since no one used to wear it to the classroom in the last 35 years. The students who came with the demand had the backing of outside forces," Gowda had said.
As the issue of Hijab versus saffron scarves spread to several educational institutions in many parts of Karnataka, the state government announced holiday from February 9 to February 15 in all the pre-university colleges and from February 9 to February 16 in degree and diploma colleges.
The girls then approached the Karnataka High Court seeking relief and quashing the government order on February 5 restraining students from wearing any cloth that could disturb, peace, harmony and public order.
In a bid to keep the law and order in place and prevent any protests or gatherings ahead of the hight court verdict, prohibitory orders have been imposed across the state. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been imposed in Bengaluru for one week, starting from March 15.
Mangaluru Deputy Commissioner R Selvamani announced that all schools and colleges would remain shut on March 15 in Mangaluru and Shivamogga. He also added that the external examinations schedules would remain unchanged while the internal examinations conducted by the schools and colleges would be postponed.
"Except teachers and students, no one should go near the college campus. There is also restrictions on any celebration over the verdict.", said R Selvamani.
Apart from imposition of prohibitory orders, security arrangements have been beefed up in different parts of the district as a pre-emptive measure.
According to Shivamogga SP BM Laxmi Prasad, eight Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP) battalion, 6 District Armed Reserve (DAR), 1 Rapid Action Force (RAF) troop have been deployed in the city.