Bringing a temporary end to the chaos created by the Hijab row that had schools ordered to be shut until tomorrow (11 February), the Karnataka High Court whose special three member bench is hearing the case said it will pass orders for schools to be resumed in the state but ‘students and stakeholders will not insist on wearing any religious garment or head dress’.
“We will restrain everyone, we want peace and tranquility” remarked the bench as it concluded the hearing for the day and said the matter will be heard next Monday (14 February).
Lawyer Devdutt Kamat tried appealing to the court against its instructions prohibiting the headscarf or any religious garment saying it amounts to a suspension of Article 25 as far as students are concerned. The Bench responded by asking the petitioners to cooperate if they want the courts to decide the issues. “You people should not insist for wearing all these religious things which are not conducive”, said the Bench.
“We are being asked to choose between food and water. We are being asked to choose between education and conscience,” said Kamat, asking to record his objection. The court responded saying it will restrain everyone in the interim from adopting all these practices.
Kamat argued for interim relief seeking that the petitioners be allowed to wear the headscarf and attend classes until the matter is decided. In three broad submissions, he said that the government order ‘suffers from total non-application of mind‘ and that the High court judgements that the GO is based on don’t hold that the Hijab is not part of Article 25 as it claims. He went on to argue that all the three decisions cited by the GO are totally against the state, to which the Court responded saying the State’s understanding is not so.
Kamat said the understanding is totally incorrect. He said the government order is the foundation on the basis of which the colleges are prescribing that the headscarf can't be allowed and that if it goes the rest won’t stand either.
He quotes three cases in which one he says was a private minority institution, the second was an all girls school and no co-education schools and the third was a Madras High Court judgement that prescribed dress to teachers and had no mention of the headscarf or Article 25 in it.
He was preceded by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde who argued saying petitioners were facing discrimination since September 2021 and had been marked absent and asked to stand outside the class.
He made submissions that there is no specific provision in the Karnataka Education Act that deals with uniforms, nor any prescribed penalty for violation.
The Advocate General had presented the state’s stand asking for the classes to begin with the status quo being maintained. The state sought that they should as of now adhere to dress code prescribed by the concerned college. “We want all students to come to college and classes have to start. So my submission is the issues will be considered by Court but in meanwhile education should commence,” he said. To which, Kamat had asked for the Court to allow the students to attend classes while wearing hijab in the interim.
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