Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday said that his government will provide Y category security cover to the three High Court judges, including Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, who pronounced the verdict in the hijab ban case, PTI reported.
The announcement came hours after an unknown person allegedly issued death threats to Justice Awasthi for his order, according to NDTV.
“There has been a case of death threat to three judges of Karnataka High Court, including the Chief Justice, in Tamil Nadu,” Bommai said, according to PTI. “Some anti-national forces are trying to challenge the system of this country. This had never happened in the past.”
On March 15, a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi had adjudicated that the hijab is not essential to Islam and had dismissed all petitions filed against the state government’s ban on wearing headscarf in educational institutions.
On Sunday, a first information report was filed by the Karnataka Police after advocate lawyer Umapathi S told the police that he had received a video message on WhatsApp, in which a person can be issuing “open threat of murder” to the chief justice.
Umapathi said that the video seemed to have originated from Tamil Nadu during a public meeting. He alleged that the speaker in the video referred to the killing of Dhanbad judge Uttam Anand in Jharkhand, who died on July 28 after a three-wheeler ran over him.
CCTV camera footage of the incident had shown the vehicle suddenly swerving towards the 49-year-old judge, who was walking on an empty road, and hitting him.
“The speaker also makes a similar threat to the chief justice of Karnataka by stating that people know where he goes for a walk,” the complaint said, according to The Indian Express. “Further, he makes a reference to...his [Awasthi’s] visit to Udupi Mutt with family members...He also talks about the court judgement in very vulgar language.”
Bommai said that the threat issued to Chief Justice Awasthi is an alarming sign in democracy, according to The Indian Express. “We should ensure that these kinds of anti-national forces don’t grow,” he added. “Law and order are in place in the country because of the judiciary.”
The chief minister also questioned the silence of “pseudo-seculars” on the threat to the chief justice, according to PTI.
“You guys [pseudo seculars] raise your voice on other issues,” he said. “Appeasing a section of society is not secularism, it is real communalism. I condemn it. Break your silence. We should all be together on this issue.”
The hijab ban had been imposed last month after a group of students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi city protested because they were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in the headscarf.
In their petition, the girls had argued before the court that wearing hijab in educational institutions was their fundamental right to freedom of religion.
During the hearings that stretched nearly 23 hours, the Karnataka government told the High Court that wearing the hijab is not an essential religious practice of Islam and imposing a ban on wearing it does not violate the freedom to practice and profess a religion under Article 25 of the Constitution.
The government had also said that religious aspects should not be part of uniform in educational institutions.
The court’s judgement was in line with the government’s stand on both these matters. Hours after the Karnataka High Court passed its verdict, one of the students challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.
- Explainer: How the Karnataka High Court justified the hijab ban
- Allowing hijab can lead to ‘social-separatedness’: What the court order banning headscarves said