The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday, 23 February, clarified that its interim order from 10 February applied to both degree colleges and pre-university colleges, where uniforms were prescribed. The court further clarified that the order applied only to students and not teachers.
"If a uniform is prescribed, it has to be followed, whether it is degree college or PU college."Karnataka High Court
This comes a day after a single-judge bench of the high court refused to grant interim relief to students of a degree college who had asked for protection of their right to wear the hijab.
At the end of Wednesday's hearing – on the petitions filed by Muslim girls seeking protection of their right to wear hijab in educational institutions – advocate Mohammad Tahir mentioned applications moved by students of Bhandakar College of Arts and Science, Udupi, seeking clarification on the interim order.
WHAT DID THE PETITIONERS' LAWYER SAY?
Tahir had argued that even colleges with no prescribed uniform were now citing the interim order and stopping hijab-wearing Muslim students. He also submitted that the college had told the single-judge bench that they had passed a resolution to bring in a uniform, but pointed out that even the rule book allowed girls to wear headscarves.
"The arrangement cannot be done immediately. One fine morning, the institution comes and says they have prescribed uniform, and so the interim order is applicable."Advocate Mohammad Tahir
Meanwhile, senior advocates S Naganand, appearing on behalf of a PU college opposing the hijab, and Sajan Poovayya, representing the members of a college development committee (including MLA Rathupathi Bhat) made arguments in favour of the government order.
"No fundamental right is absolute," said Naganand adding that Article 25 begins with "subject to."
"My right for peaceful existence cannot be threatened by somebody saying I want to exercise my religious rights."Senior Advocates S Naganad
"I am not there because I am an MLA, but I am there to look after the local requirements," Poovayya, on his part, said, representing MLA Bhat.
The hearing is slated to continue at 2:30 pm on Thursday.
On Monday, Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, representing the state, had argued that hijab was not an "essential religious practice" and had said:
"What is optional is not compulsory. What is not compulsory is not obligatory. What is not obligatory is not essential."
Further citing the judgment in the Sabarimala case, Navadgi asked: "Would it be possible to accept the wearing of hijab in light of constitutional morality and individual dignity?"
On 10 February, the Karnataka High Court had agreed to continue hearing the pleas filed by the girls but had refused to pass an interim order that would have allowed them to continue wearing hijabs until the court arrived at a final decision.
While directing the reopening of colleges in the state, the judges had also controversially ordered that no student should wear any religious clothing while the court continues to hear the case.
"Pending consideration of all these petitions, we restrain all the students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls (Bhagwa), scarfs, hijab, religious flags, or the like within the classroom, until further orders."Karnataka High Court