The Karnataka High Court had, on March 15, highlighted the following key points in its judgment:
On Essential Religious Practice: Rejecting petitions filed by female Muslim students seeking protection of their right to wear hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka, the Karnataka High Court said:
“We are of the view that the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women is not part of the essential religious practice in the Islamic faith… The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, authorized by the Constitution, which students cannot oppose.”
On the importance of the hijab in the Islamic faith: Observing that “there is sufficient intrinsic material in the scripture itself to support the view that wearing the hijab was merely a recommendation”, the court said:
“No document is presented to us for the assessment and determination of the pleaded conscience of the petitioners. They have not asserted anything about how they associate the wearing of the hijab with their conscience as an overt act. There is no evidence that the applicants chose to wear their headscarves as a means of conveying any thoughts or beliefs on their part or as a means of symbolic expression.”
On school uniforms: “It is hardly necessary to say that schools are ‘qualified public places’ which are structured primarily to give pedagogical instructions to students. Such ‘qualified spaces’ by their very nature reject the assertion of individual rights to the detriment of their general discipline and decorum,” the court had said.
“Without any stretch of the imagination, it can be said with profit that prescribing a dress code infringes upon students’ fundamental right to self-expression or autonomy,” he added.
The court emphasized that school uniforms promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood that goes beyond religious or sectoral diversities.
On ‘Invisible Hands’: Expressing dismay at how the hijab feud suddenly erupted in the middle of the academic term, the court said: “The way the hijab imbroglio unfolded gives room for the argument that some “invisible hands” are at work to cause social unrest and discord.”