Students in Karnataka cannot wear saffron scarves or hijabs in schools and colleges until further orders, the High Court has said.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi had said on Thursday that it will direct students not to wear “religious clothes” in educational institutes while the case is pending. The High Court uploaded the detailed order on Friday.

The court said that it was pained by the ongoing protests and the resultant closure of educational institutes.

The bench stated that while all citizens have the right to profess and practice any faith, it is subject to reasonable restrictions under the Constitution. The order added that the matter as to whether wearing a hijab in a classroom is an essential religious practice of Islam needs a deeper examination.

“Ours being a civilised society, no person in the name of religion, culture or the like can be permitted to do any act that disturbs public peace and tranquility,” the order read. “Endless agitations and closure of educational institutions indefinitely are not happy things to happen.”

Students’ interests would be better served by them returning to classes rather the continuation of agitation, the bench remarked. It noted that the academic year is slated to end soon.

“We hope and trust that all stakeholders and the public at large shall maintain peace and tranquility,” the court said. It clarified that its order directing students not to wear saffron scarves or hijabs was restricted to colleges that have prescribed a dress code or uniform.

During the hearing on Thursday, the petitioners sought permission to wear hijabs, contending that not allowing them to do so would be a suspension of their rights, Live Law reported. “We are told to choose between food and water, and both are essential,” lawyer Devdatt Kamat, representing one of the petitioners, argued.

On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. The state government told the High Court that the order does not prescribe any uniform and allows institutions to decide on the issue.

The state advocate general told the court that while the government also wants to restart classes, it cannot do so “with one set of students coming with head scarves and another set coming with saffron shawls”.

The protests

Over the past few days, Hindu students and mobs of men have protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes at several places in Karnataka. At some colleges, Muslim students have been heckled, while in another case some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.

As tensions across the state rose, the Karnataka government on Tuesday ordered all high schools and colleges in the state to be shut between February 9 and February 11.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that schools till Class 10 will resume from Monday and the state government will take a decision on reopening colleges later.