Karnataka hijab row: Student moves HC, seeks interim relief to attend classes

The student argued that wearing a hijab was her fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution.
Students wearing hijab and sitting on staircase in protest
Students wearing hijab and sitting on staircase in protest

A student of the Women’s Government Pre-University College in Udupi has approached the Karnataka High Court seeking directions to her college to permit entry into her classroom while wearing a hijab. TNM has reported in detail the tension between eight students who are currently barred from attending classes for reportedly violating the dress code since December 27, 2021.  In her petition, the student argued that wearing a hijab was her fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14 and 25 of the Constitution. She said, “Constitution of India guarantees the Freedom of Conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate religion while reserving the state's right to interfere with the religious matter only if it involves an issue relating to public order, morality and health.”

Article 14 guarantees the right of equality before law while Article 25 gives freedom of religion to all persons in India.

In the petition filed by advocates Shathabish Shivanna, Arnav A Bagalwadi and Abhishek Janardhan, she mentioned that in a 2016 case(Amnah Bint Basheer vs Central Board Of Secondary), the High Court held that the analysis of quranic injunctions and the Hadiths show it is a ‘farz’ (duty) to cover the head and wear the long sleeved dress and exposing the body otherwise is forbidden.

The petition also added that the exclusionary practice of singling out the petitioner herein solely on the basis of wearing hijab is against constitutional morality as it lacks any public interest.  As an interim prayer, the petitioner has sought that the HC allows her and fellow students who want to wear hijab be allowed to attend classes. 

Currently the state government has formed an expert  committee to resolve the issue after the development created controversy and even got international attention. Even on Monday, Udupi BJP MLA Raghupathi Bhat  who heads the  development monitoring committee for the college held a meeting with the girls’ parents and tried to persuade them to not wear hijab during classes. He told TNM, “The students will be allowed to attend college if only they don’t wear hijab and adhere to the dress code. If they join back classes soon, we will ensure that extra classes are held so that they can make up for the lost classes.”

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