Hijab not essential religious practice of Islam: Karnataka Govt

Students hold placards during a protest over the hijab ban imposed in the few colleges in Karnataka at Government Degree College, Mendhar, in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on 18 February 2022ANI

Amid the ongoing Hijab controversy, the Karnataka government on Friday submitted before the Karnataka High Court that Hijab is not an essential religious practice of the Muslim faith and preventing it does not violate the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

A bench of the three-judge Bench of chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi was hearing the various petitions challenging the ban on Hijab in educational institutes in the state.

Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, appearing for the Karnataka government, said that the state has taken the stand that Hijab does not come under the essential religious practice of Islam.

Replying to the court’s question, advocate general said that he will substantiate how Hijab is not an essential religious practice on Monday.

While opposing various petitions challenging the ban on Hijab, the AG said that the Government Order dated 5 February 2022 is in consonance with the Karnataka Education Act.

He took the Court to reason behind issuing this government order. He apprised the Court about issues that arose in government college in Udupi.

Advocate general also said that a group of students insisted that they will enter the college wearing a hijab and informed the principal about the same.

He further said that College Development Committee (CDC) thereafter passed a resolution on 1 January and requested to send students in their prescribed uniform. As things did not return to normal, the state government was informed about the situation, he said.

Advocate general apprised the Court that the state government said that it would constitute a High-Level Committee to examine various issues and asked to maintain the status quo.

The advocate further added his issue spread to other institutions and therefore the intervention of the state was called for. When the protests and unrests continue, the impugned 5 February order was passed, the advocate general said.

Karnataka HC questioned the advocate general whether the government order was premature and said, “On one hand you (state) are saying a high-level committee is examining the issue and on the other hand you (state) issue this.” Karnataka High Court also asked whether this would amount to contradictory stand by state. Advocate General replying to the Karnataka HC said, “Certainly not and these are unusual situations which came up.”

Karnataka HC remarked that MLA is a more political character. Karnataka HC asked whether that character should have overtone in the administration of an institution.

Advocate general says that it is a matter of debate and my submission is that in these circumstances the government did not want to intervene. He further said that the state wanted to treat everyone equally.

The Karnataka High Court will continue hearing next Monday on petitions challenging the ban on Hijab in educational institutes.