Hijab row: banned only inside classrooms says Karnatakatext_fields
New Delhi: Defending its order on hijab, the Karnataka government submitted before the Supreme Court that it only banned the headwear inside classrooms, but the same is not restricted inside the school campuses, IANS reported.
The government pressed that it has not touched any "religious aspect" regarding the ban.
When the bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia asked whether the hijab protests started in one school and spread later, the state government's counsel, Advocate General Prabhuling K. Navadgi, replied yes.
"There was a possibility of a public order issue," he said. The protesting students "asserted militantly that they want to wear hijab and retaliated by others, it became a concern," said Navadgi told the court, according to IANS.
He contented that though wearing a hijab is a right to privacy and expression, it can't be excersized in all zones. France has banned the hijab, but women there have not become less Islamic, he claimed.
"Much hue and cry are made by saying that hijab is banned. Let me clarify, hijab is not banned, and the state never intended," he said.
He said that every mundane activity connected with Quran could not be an essential religious practice. He added that if it were to be accepted that whatever is said in the Quran is essential, it would defeat the tests of essentiality.
He made a curious argument, citing Article 51A(j) of the Constitution, that one should rise above religious identity to become part of one group, and the right to wear a dress cannot be absolute.
If hijab is worn as per their right to expression, it has to be established what the expression they want to convey is and to whom they want to convey it, he said. "They say they wear hijab as Islam mandates. That is no expression," the AG contented.
Navadagi further said that the state wishes to inculcate discipline in students by mandating uniforms. Therefore, any restrictive effect on rights under Article 19 of the Constitution is "incidental", and it cannot be
The bench quizzed Navadagi, citing the government circular, on whether wearing a headscarf goes against unity and equality, and cited one of the contentions of the petitioners that there should be no uniform - since it is pre-university and some do not have a uniform.
The AG contended that the words used in the circular were if there is no uniform prescribed, wear something which goes along with unity and equality and also has no impact on law and order.
He said the state has only said educational institutions could prescribe uniforms for students, something which is "religion-neutral".
The top court will continue to hear arguments on Thursday on petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state.