Hijab row: Only prescribed uniforms which are "religion-neutral" : Karnataka govt to Supreme Court

Karnataka's Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi emphasised that there is no restriction on wearing hijab in school transport or even in the school campus.

ANIUpdated: Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 09:38 PM IST
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Supreme Court goes on day n0.9 in the hearing for Karnataka hijab row | File

New Delhi: The Karnataka Government, while justifying its decision to prescribe a dress code in the educational institutes, apprised the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it had prescribed uniforms that were religion-neutral.

Karnataka government maintains no person discriminated against

Representing Karnataka state, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj said on Wednesday that the state has not banned Hijab but has only prescribed a uniform that is religion-neutral. ASG Nataraj submitted that the state government had neither prohibited nor promoted any religious activity.

ASG KM Nataraj said all religious rights must be balanced and no one can say that they have an absolute right. Countering the submission of the petitioner, ASG Nataraj said that the matter did not require to be referred to a larger bench as it was a simple case connected with the issue of discipline in educational institutions. He also said that no person has been discriminated against and all have been treated equally.

Defending the state government's decision, Karnataka's Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi submitted before SC the restrictions on the Hijab are inside the classroom. Karnataka's Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi emphasised that there is no restriction on wearing hijab in school transport or even on the school campus.

The Karnataka Advocate General said that ground reality was something that has never happened in Karnataka. He further apprised the court of a group of students who have come to the education institute demanding to wear a Hijab, and banging on the gates.

Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi said that there were some groups that were actively associated with this and these facts are in the chargesheet. He also placed the charge sheet and translation of the government circular before the court.

'No absolute freedom and every freedom restricted'

Denying that the state has acted against a particular religion, Karnataka Advocate General Navadgi said that Rule 11 of the Karnataka Education Act is the statutory power for the school to prescribe the dress. He added there is no absolute freedom and every freedom can be restricted.

The court which was hearing various pleas against Karnataka HC's judgment upholding the ban of Hijab in educational institutes will continue to hear the matter tomorrow too.

Religious interpretation of the Quran

During the day-long hearing, Justice Gupta put to the Karnataka government the petitioner's argument that whatever is stated in the Quran is the word of God and sacrosanct.

Karnataka's Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi replied that they are not experts in Quran, but Supreme Court has held every word in Quran may be religious but not essential.

Justice Gupta cites personal experiences

Justice Hemant Gupta also shared that he knew someone in Pakistan, a judge of Lahore High Court, who used to visit India, and said that he had never seen his two daughters wearing hijab, at least in India. Karnataka's AG Navadgi said to his knowledge, he has not seen a lot of women wearing a Hijab.

Justice Gupta also shared facts that he has interacted with many Muslim families in UP and Bihar and has seen women not wearing hijab. Karnataka AG submitted that women are not wearing Hijabs in several countries like France or Turkey.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the State of Karnataka, argued that today one person says it is my right to wear a hijab, another person will say he wants to wear a shawl, and some other person will want something else. He further argued that how can you have religious symbols in a secular education institution? Secular education is not meant for that, he said.

Justice Dhulia asked will you allow someone who wants to enter school wearing a Hijab. ASG KM Nataraj said that the school will decide and as a state, we respect everything including Hijab and shawl.

ASG KM Nataraj said that all religious rights must be balanced and no one can say that they have an absolute right. All religious rights must be balanced, he said.

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