The Karnataka government on Friday told the High Court that preventing a person from wearing hijab did not amount to violation of religious freedom of a person, since wearing hijab was not an essential religious practice of Islam.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice J.M. Khazi and Justice Krishna M. Dixit were hearing a batch of petitions filed by Muslim girls, seeking quashing of the state government order against wearing of such clothes, “which disturb equality, integrity and public order,” to educational institutions.
Advocate General of Karnataka Prabhuling Navadgi, appearing for the state government, said that there was nothing unlawful about the February 5 order.
“There is no issue of hijab in the government order. The government order is innocuous in nature. It does not affect the petitioners’ rights,” he said, adding that colleges can decide, if they want to allow hijab in the classroom.
The Karnataka AG said the state does not want to intervene in religious matters.
However, he admitted that the portion prescribing clothes “in consonance with unity and equality” could have been worded better.
The Advocate General rejected the charge of some Muslim students, who had challenged the Karnataka government’s order on February 5, saying that it violated Article 25 of the Constitution.
Article 25 gives freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to the citizens of India.
The government order also does not violate Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression, Navadgi argued.
Earlier last week, the Karnataka High Court had passed an interim order, pending consideration of all petitions related to the hijab row, restraining all students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, hijab and any religious flag within the classroom.