Petitioners seeking the right to wear hijab in educational institutions of Karnataka on Thursday asked the High Court how covering heads with scarves could disturb public order, reported Bar and Bench.

On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order banning clothes that disturb “public order” as well as “equality” and “integrity”.

“If someone keeps desecrated image of Lord Rama or any Hindu goddess then it is public order issue,” said Senior Advocate AM Dar, representing a group of petitioners. “If you [are] desecrating the image of other religion, then it hurts feeling and it can be public order. But simple covering head, how it causes public order [problems]?”

The High Court is hearing pleas filed by the students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College seeking permission to wear hijab to educational institutions. They have been protesting since last month after they were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. Similar protests have also taken place across the state.

At Thursday’s hearing, Dar said that the headscarf was a “small matter” for a country like India. He said that scarf enhances “reputation of the lady, it purifies and gives modesty”.

He added: “It does not cause public order issue. It is not causing any immorality.”

Dar also argued that the government order is “unconstitutional” as it suspends fundamental rights. He asked the court to revoke the order contending that the petitioners would have to quit studying as they cannot compromise on the principles of wearing a hijab.

“This is not a Hindu rashtra or an Islamic republic,” the senior advocate submitted. “It is a democratic sovereign secular republic where rule of law must prevail.”

Dar also argued that hijab was mandatory in Islam and is prescribed in the Quran, reported Live Law. He said that the Quran does not use the term “hijab” but refers to it as partition.

Citing the holy book, the senior advocate argued that wearing hijab was a “command from the God”.

“You have to cover head, face and chest to protect modesty and protect all Muslim values,” he said. “We are not saying we [the petitioners] will go in burqa to school. We are covering only the head, face and chest. These are vulnerable parts so that there is no attraction.”

Senior Advocate Devdatt Kamat, who is representing one of the petitioners, argued that the College Development Committee has no authority to prescribe the dress code.

“As long as the CDC [College Development Committee ] remains a Marga Darshak mandal [guiding panel], I don’t have any problem,” he submitted. “Let them remain as a guiding force. But the problem is when statutory functions are given.”

Meanwhile, Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi submitted a report on the progress of investigation in the complaint registered against the Campus Front of India, the student wing of Popular Front of India, a Kerala-based Islamic group.

On Wednesday, the High Court had sought to know about the role of the students’ organisation into the hijab controversy.

On January 1, six students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi had attended a press conference held by the Campus Front of India in protest against the authorities denying them entry into classrooms wearing hijab.

Rudre Gowda, the principal of the college, however, had claimed that the students had participated in the protest four days before they had asked for permission to wear hijab in classes.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Senior Advocate SS Naganand, representing the college, had claimed that the hijab controversy was started by students having links with the Campus Front of India.

Naganand had also claimed that the Campus Front of India had coordinated and organised the protests. Another lawyer had said that the Campus Front of India is a “radical organisation” and is not recognised by colleges.

Also read:

  1. Explainer: Why is Karnataka HC deciding if the hijab is an ‘essential religious practice’ in Islam?
  2. Bengaluru college allegedly asks Sikh girl to remove turban, cites High Court order