Day 10 Hearing: Hijab Ban (Karnataka High Court)

Hijab Ban in Karnataka Educational Institutions

On February 23th 2022, hearings at the Karnataka High Court in the challenge to the hijab ban saw arguments by the teachers of Government Girls’ PU College Udupi.

Senior Advocate S.S. Naganand first rather cheerfully denied the allegations that had been levelled against the teachers. Mr. Naganand then turned increasingly serious as he said that the students had been instigated by ‘outside’ organisations to wear the hijab. He then stressed that educational institutions had the power to impose dress codes to maintain discipline. Further, he said that the Right to Religious Expression under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, 1950, could not be interpreted with the Right to Freedom of Expression under Article 19. The phrase ‘public order’ in the Government Order purportedly banning the hijab did not have the sane meaning as public order in Article 19. Further, these educational institutions were exercising their parental powers in prescribing a uniform.

Mr. Naganand was followed by Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, appearing on behalf of the educational institution. Mr. Poovayya drew the Court’s attention to Article 28 of the Constitutions, emphasising that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for religious instruction to be provided in schools. Education is a secular activity—religious attire cannot be allowed into an institution imparting secular education. Religion and the state cannot be mixed. Even if one were to accept that wearing the hijab is an Essential Religious Practice, authorities must ensure that no religious symbols must be allowed into schools.

Hearings ended with counsels for the intervenors requesting the Court that they be allowed to speak. The Court said that at this point, they did not require assistance from the intervenors.

On February 24th 2022, Court is expected to continue hearing the counsels for the respondents, and shall provide time for the counsels for the petitioners to provide rejoinders.