‘Allowing hijab will amount to preferential treatment’: Karnataka govt tells HC

Allowing students to wear the hijab in classes will violate the right to equality of other students who are following the dress code, the Department of Primary and Secondary Education in Karnataka said.
‘Allowing hijab will amount to preferential treatment’: Karnataka govt tells HC
‘Allowing hijab will amount to preferential treatment’: Karnataka govt tells HC

The Karnataka government submitted an affidavit before the High Court on Monday, February 7, regarding the ongoing hijab row. It said that the students submitted an undertaking to wear a uniform in college and not wearing it will amount to a violation of the code of conduct as mandated by the institution. In a reply to the petitioners’ plea against the ban on hijab at pre-university colleges in Karnataka, the government stated that the student petitioners have ‘unnecessarily’ knocked on the doors of the High Court, and that an educational institution is not a place to profess or practice any caste or religion. The government asked that the plea be dismissed. 

The government said that allowing any student to wear any cloth other than the prescribed uniform will amount to “preferential treatment,” resulting in the violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India of other students. “The educational institution is not a place to profess, preach any particular religion or caste and on the contrary, students have to maintain uniform and for this noble object, the students are required to wear uniform and cloth as prescribed by the Institution or concerned authority,” the government said in its response to the petition before the High Court.

The government said that parents and students were aware of the dress code and uniform system at the college and that they have submitted an undertaking to follow the same during admission and that they cannot seek exemption now. “It is pertinent to note that the petitioners were following the dress code and had not sought any exemption till December 2021,” the reply, filed by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education in Karnataka, stated. 

The Karnataka government submitted undertakings signed by the students to show that the students had agreed to adhere to the dress code. The undertaking states that it is compulsory to wear the college uniform and ID card to college every day. Therefore, if the students violate the dress code, that amounts to a violation of the institution’s code of conduct, said the government.

The government’s submission to the court also stated that the management of this institution has the right to establish a dress code. “It is also a settled law that when there are personal interests and larger interests involved, the issue of personal interest must yield to larger interest,” the Karnataka government added in its statement before the court. 

The government added that the government or the college is not in favour of any particular student or group nor are they interested in interfering with the religious beliefs. “The only concern of the government is to maintain uniformity, cohesiveness, discipline and public order which are indispensable to an educational institution,” the statement said, and added that the purpose of a uniform and a dress code is to maintain equality among the students. “In educational institutions, students should not be allowed to wear identifiable religious symbols or dress code catering to their religious beliefs and faith. Allowing this practice would lead to students acquiring a distinctive, identifiable feature which is not conducive for the development of the child and academic environment,” the government said. 

“Prescribing dress code will not be a hurdle or in any manner be violative of any rights as alleged…On the other hand, they will be treated equally and there will not be any special identity being attributed to them or groupism they are subjected to by virtue of their appearance due to dress code,” the government said. 

The Karnataka High Court is currently hearing the case further. Here are the updates from the previous hearing held on February 8: Karnataka hijab row: HC calls for 'peace & tranquillity' as violence breaks out

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