Karnataka cites Iran anti-hijab protests to back case in Supreme Court

During the hearing of the hijab case, the Karnataka government also came down heavily on PFI, and alleged that it was part of a larger conspiracy.
Five hijab-clad students holding up signs with the Supreme Court of India in the background
Five hijab-clad students holding up signs with the Supreme Court of India in the background
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Amid the ongoing hearing of the hijab case in the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Karnataka government, on Tuesday, referenced the anti-hijab protests that are spreading across Iran. He told the apex court that even in countries like Iran, which are constitutionally Islamic, women are fighting against hijab. Mehta submitted before a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia that the purpose of uniform is for equality, equity, and uniformity.

He said that India is a secular country and even in countries which are constitutionally Islamic like Iran, not all women are wearing hijab, instead they are fighting against it. He added that its mention in the Quran "means it's permissible.. Not essential". At this, Justice Dhulia said they (the petitioners) are saying they will wear the uniform. He asked Mehta whether a child will remove his muffler during the winter if it is not the prescribed uniform. Mehta argued that the government’s rule says there cannot be a religious identity and uniform is uniform, and in a secular school, one has to wear the uniform.

During the hearing, the apex court said it must be “proved beyond doubt that the wearing of the hijab was a threat to public order, public health or morality”. The Solicitor General also came down on the Popular Front of India (PFI), alleging that the “movement was designed to create an agitation”. He further alleged there were messages on social media to begin wearing hijab and this was not a spontaneous act, instead it was a part of larger conspiracy, and children were acting as advised.

Insisting that the agitation in support of wearing hijab in educational institutions was not a "spontaneous act" by a few individuals, it said the state government would have been "guilty of dereliction of constitutional duty" if it had not acted the way it did. Mehta told the court the PFI started a campaign on social media which was designed to create an agitation based on "religious feelings of the people". "In 2022, a movement started on the social media by an organisation called the Popular Front of India and the movement, as an FIR which was lodged subsequently suggested and now culminated into a charge sheet, was designed to create a kind of an agitation based on religious feelings of the people and as a part there were continuous social media messages that start wearing hijab," Mehta said.

Several pleas have been filed in the top court against the March 15 verdict of the high court holding that wearing hijab is not a part of the essential religious practice which can be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution.

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