‘Let us wear a headscarf the same color as the school uniform,’ students tell HC

New Delhi: The girls who had filed a petition for hijab petitioned the Karnataka High Court on Monday to allow them to wear Islamic headscarves in the same color as their school uniform.

The government has restricted the use of any fabric that could disturb peace, harmony and law and order after the hijab dispute escalated in Karnataka and student protests spread to other colleges .

The controversy first erupted in January at a government PU college in Udupi, where six students who attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the stipulated dress code were asked to leave the campus.

The girls pleaded before the full bench of the High Court, consisting of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice JM Khazi and Justice Krishna M Dixit, PTI reported.

Appearing on behalf of the girls at Udupi Government Pre-University College, Barrister Devadatt Kamat told the court, “I am not only challenging the GO (Government Order) but also asking for a positive warrant to allow me to carry a scarf of the same color of the uniform.”

Kamat also claimed that central schools allowed Muslim girls to wear headscarves in the color of the school uniform. The headscarf, he claimed, is an essential religious practice and restricting its use violates Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 25 states: “Subject to public order, good morals and health and to the other provisions of this title, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate their religion freely.

Kamat said there is no legislation controlling or prohibiting commercial, financial, political or other secular activities under Article 25.

The Muslim girls’ lawyer further said that the government had allowed the College Development Committee (CDC), which includes an MP, to decide on the uniform.

“A CDC including an MP is an extra-constitutional authority and a third party to decide what to wear. The government has given responsibility to that third party,” Kamat argued.

He also informed the bench that the girls had been wearing hijab for two years since their admission. “Because of other students suddenly wearing cloth displaying their religious identity, the fundamental rights of his clients have been restricted,” the attorney argued.

“The state says wearing the headscarf can be a problem because other students want to display their religious identity,” Kamat pointed out.

The case will be heard again on Tuesday, according to the court.

On January 1, six female college students from Udupi attended a press conference organized by Campus Front of India (CFI) in the coastal city to protest against college authorities for refusing them entry to class by wearing the hijab.

This was four days after they asked permission from the principal to wear the hijab in class, which was not allowed. At the time, students wore hijabs on campus and entered the classroom after removing headscarves, college principal Rudre Gowda said.

“The institution had no rules on wearing the hijab as such and since no one had used to wear it in class for the past 35 years. The students who came with the request had the support outside forces,” Gowda said.

(With PTI inputs)