The Karnataka High Court Upheld Ban On Wearing A Hijab In Educational Institutions
The Karnataka High Court pronounced its judgment in the hijab and upheld the restriction on Muslim women wearing a hijab in educational institutions, ruling that the right to wear hijab is not constitutionally protected. The landmark judgment that came months after the Hijab Controversy escalated, was pronounced by a full Bench of the Karnataka High Court -- comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khazi. After considering all arguments presented by parties involved, the Court said that it formulated few questions and reasoned its judgement accordingly.
In distilling four points—essential religious practices test, legality of prescribing a school uniform, correctness of the Karnataka government’s February 5 order and whether the teachers in the Udupi college where the controversy first began must be prosecuted— the court chose to take up the convenient questions, side stepping the more fundamental dilemmas.
Over the past many decades, the Supreme Court has devised a practical test of sorts to determine specifically which religious practices should enjoy constitutional protection. This has come to be referred to as the “essential religious practices” test, or the “essentiality” doctrine.
At a time when the hijab-removal rule has become a flashpoint of religious tension in the state and has spread in other parts of the country, the judgment endorsed the spirit of “uniformity” that school and college dress codes/uniforms promote.
The Karnataka High Court observed that the state government has the power to pass orders and the one dated February 5, 2022 is not unconstitutional. The Court said that if a Government Order (GO) is sustainable in law (which in this case, it is), parties cannot challenge it. The court agreed that ‘’the impugned order could have well been drafted.’’
The agency of women choosing to wear the hijab does not get due consideration the court again treats the issue much too sweepingly, asserting that the insistence on wearing a hijab may hinder the process of emancipation of women in general and Muslim women in particular. This case required a fine-grained discussion on autonomy, accommodation, and the limits of law in a multi-religious country.
The Karnataka High Court verdict on the hijab row has been challenged and taken to the Supreme Court. A special leave petition has been filed in the Apex Court against the ruling that hijab is 'not an essential part of Islam' and 'prescription of uniform serves Constitutional Secularism.’