The lawyer for a group of petitioners seeking permission to wear hijab in educational institutions urged the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday to revoke its interim order banning “religious clothes”, including the headscarf in schools and colleges, reported Live Law.

“This order in effect suspends fundamental rights,” Senior Advocate Devdatt Kamat told the court. “Kindly do not continue this interim order.”

The High Court is hearing pleas filed by students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Kundapur town of Udupi district. On February 10, a three-judge bench had barred the students in Karnataka from wearing “religious clothes” in schools and colleges until further orders. Following the ban, several schools in Karnataka have stopped students from attending classes wearing hijab.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Kamat submitted before the High Court that the scope of the interim order was “broad”, and asked for some leeway to wear headscraves while the case was being considered.

The High Court, however, said that by passing the interim order, it has not decided anything.

Advocate Mohammad Tahir, appearing for some of the petitioners, argued that the order was being misused by authorities.

“Muslims girls are forced to remove their hijab,” he said. “In Gulbarga, government officials went to an Urdu school and forced the teachers and students to remove hijab.”

Kamat also said that India follows “positive secularism” in which all religions are recognised and treated equally.

“This is an innocuous practice of wearing head scarf and not changing my uniform,” he said. “This is a facet of freedom of speech and expression. If small exemption is given to wear headscarf, it will be in line with right to freedom of speech and expression.”

The advocate also argued that under Article 25(2) of the Constitution, wearing hijab cannot be restricted. He cited a Supreme Court verdict on how the state can exercise its power under Article 25(2).

“State can regulate ‘deleterious practices’,” Kamat submitted. “Here, in this case, it [the hijab] is an innocuous practice.”

Article 25 (2) imposed reasonable restrictions on freedom of individuals to practice, profess and propagate religion.

Kamat also argued that “hecklers veto” cannot be considered by the court. He was referring to protests against Muslim women wearing hijab.

“If I go on street, and somebody stops saying he does not like Devdatt Kamat, then state cannot stop me from going to the street saying it will create public order issue,” the advocate said.

Senior Advocate Ravivarma Kumar, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that college development committees were “beyond the rule of law” reported Bar and Bench. Citing Section 2(7) of Karnataka Education Act, which defines “competent authority”, Kumar contended that they had no power to prescribe a uniform.

The court will continue hearing the case from 2.30 pm on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Udupi Deputy Commissioner M Kurma Rao on Tuesday defended the schools and colleges who have banned hijab-wearing students from attending classes, saying that they have the responsibility to implement the High Court’s interim order, reported ANI.

Muslim students have been agitating since last month after they were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. Similar protests have taken place across the state. On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

Earlier this month, 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 escalated, the Karnataka government shut all schools and colleges between February 9 and February 12. The schools till Class 10 were reopened on Monday, while the colleges will reopen from Wednesday.

Defer hearings till February 28: Petitioners

Meanwhile, the counsel of some of the the petitioners has urged the High Court to to defer the hearings till February 28, saying that political parties were using the ban for electoral gains in the ongoing Assembly polls, reported NDTV.

The application also warned that “any mischievous act of any person will further stoke communal division”.

Elections are being held in Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Uttar Pradesh.

Several political leaders have spoken on the ban.

While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath has said the country will be run by the Constitution and not by Islamic law Shariat, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has backed the girls protesting the ban.

“Whether it is a bikini, a ghoonghat, a pair of jeans or a hijab, it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear,” Vadra had said tweeted on February 9. “This right is GUARANTEED by the Indian constitution. Stop harassing women.”