Discrimination against Muslim girls is purely on the basis of religion, as Hindu girls wearing bangles and Christian girls wearing a cross were not expelled from educational institutions, the petitioners’ lawyer said on Wednesday. challenging the hijab ban in the Karnataka High Court.
Arguing before a three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit and Justice JM Khazi, Chief Advocate Ravi Varma Kumar said India’s plurality allows diverse cultures to show their religious beliefs and thus sought to find out why the hijab was only chosen for this “hostile discrimination”.
“A girl wearing a bindi is not sent, a girl wearing a bracelet is not sent. A Christian carrying a cross is not touched. Why only these (Muslim) girls?…Why only hijab? Isn’t it because of their religion? Discrimination against Muslim girls is based solely on their religion, and therefore hostile discrimination, which violates Article 15 of the constitution,” Kumar said as quoted by LiveLaw.
Counsel for the petitioners further pointed out that even Sikhs are allowed to wear a turban in the armed forces. “My argument is that if people wearing turbans can be in the army, why shouldn’t someone wearing a religious symbol be allowed to attend classes? It should be noted that Muslim girls are the least represented in classrooms. If they are excluded under this pretext, it will be very draconian,” he said.
Kumar said no other religious symbols were considered in the disputed government order. There are no provisions under the Karnataka Education Act or rules prohibiting the wearing of hijab, he added.
Judge Dixit however said: “Even if a person belonging to another community, a lady belonging to another community, suffers from alopecia, and to minimize the ugliness, she wears the headgear and comes to school. It will not be allowed.
The court said that the fact that these are not mentioned in the law does not necessarily mean that it could be allowed. It is true that it does not say that the hijab should be allowed or prohibited, but it should be argued independently, he said.
The lawyer then stated that the purpose of education is to promote plurality and not uniformity or homogeneity.
Students at Government Girl’s Pre-University College began protesting on January 13, nearly two weeks after college authorities issued an order banning the wearing of hijabs in classrooms.
The students approached the Karnataka High Court on January 29, but a row had already erupted in the southern state and several other parts of the country.
The petitioners objected to a February 4 government order that states schools and colleges will continue the prescribed practice as it was in effect at the start of the school year. That is, if a school or college allowed hijab, the practice would continue, leading to confusion and contention among petitioners.
As protests for and against hijab escalated in different parts of Karnataka and turned violent in some places, the government had declared a public holiday for all high schools and colleges in the state for three days, starting from February 9. , and it was later extended to February 16 for colleges.
The high court in its order last Thursday said no religious dress will be allowed until a final verdict is delivered in the case.