The Karnataka High Court on Friday reserved its verdict on the pleas seeking the right to wear hijab in educational institutions, reported Bar and Bench. The High Court, however, did not give a date for pronouncing its verdict.

The parties in the case have been allowed to file their written submissions till the verdict date.

For 11 days, the High Court had been hearing pleas filed by the students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College. 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.

On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. The High Court had passed its interim order on “religious clothes” on February 10.

The interim order will remain effective till a judgement is passed in the matter.

One of the questions the court is dealing with is whether wearing hijab is an essential religious practice in Islam and whether the state can interfere with an individual’s decision to wrap the headscarf, reported Live Law.

The court will consider whether wearing hijab is justified under the right to expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and whether a restriction can be imposed only under Article 19(2).

The petitioners have also challenged the government’s order to give power to the College Development Committees to prescribe uniforms.

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Explainer: Why is Karnataka HC deciding if the hijab is an ‘essential religious practice’ in Islam?

Friday’s proceedings

At Friday’s hearing, Senior Advocate Yusuf Muchchala, appearing for one of the petitioners, said his client was only seeking permission to cover the head with a piece of cloth.

“It is not right for the college to prevent us from doing that,” Muchchala submitted.

Vinod Kulkarni, a petitioner representing himself, refuted the Karnataka government’s argument that hijab has not been prescribed in the Quran. He submitted that banning hijab has adversely affected the mental health of Muslim girls, especially of those who wear the headscarves.

Senior Advocate Ravivarma Kumar, also appearing for a group of petitioners, opposed the composition of the College Development Committee and the executive powers given to it.

“[According to the composition] President of College Development Committee will be the local MLA of the constituency,” he said. “Out of the 12 members, 11 will be nominated by MLA. This is absolute power given to the MLA. College has been given over on a platter to him.”

‘Media chasing girls removing hijab’

Meanwhile, the court dismissed a plea seeking to restrict media from clicking photos and recording videos of girls while they remove their hijab and burqa. Several colleges have made students remove the clothing outside the premises.

“The media is overtly or covertly doing this,” Advocate Balakrishna argued. “Students are being humiliated and criminalised, their privacy is involved. There are shots of a teacher removing her burqa...there are visuals of girls being chased, when she removes her hijab, the media shoots.”

The court, however, said there was nothing on record to show that the girls were being harassed by the media.

Plea seeks probe into CFI’s role

Advocate Subhah Jha, appearing for petitioner Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, who is opposes to allowing hijab in educational institutions, sought an inquiry into the student’s agitation by the Central Bureau of Investigation or the National Investigation Agency .

He alleged that the students opposing the ban have been provoked by organisations such the Campus Front of India and Jamaat-e-Islami. The judges said they have already asked the Karnataka government to submit a report on the matter.

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.