At the hearing of pleas challenging the ban on wearing hijab in government schools and colleges in Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked whether the categorisation of the right to dress as a fundamental right also includes the right to undress, Live Law reported.
A bench comprising of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia made the remark in response to a submission by advocate Devadatt Kamat, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners.
During the hearing, Kamat argued that the right to dress is part of the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Justice Gupta then said that Kamat was stretching his argument to “illogical ends”, according to Live Law.
“You cannot take it to illogical ends,” Justice Gupta said. “Right to dress will include right to undress also?”
In response, Kamat said: “No one is undressing in school”.
Justices Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia are hearing a batch of petitions challenging a Karnataka High Court order that had in March upheld the state government’s ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions.
On July 13, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had sought an urgent hearing on the matter contending that girl students willing to wear hijab were losing out on their studies due to the ban. The case was taken up for hearing on August 29.
In the last hearing on September 5, the court had asked the petitioners whether students could wear whatever they want in institutions having prescribed uniforms.
“You say educational institution cannot issue a rule but what about the state unless there is a statute which prohibits dress code,” Justice Gupta had said. “So tell me can a student come in minis, midis, whatever they want?”
At Wednesday’s hearing, the court held discussions on the religious significance of various objects and whether they can be worn in educational institutes.
Kamat argued that many students wear rudraksh (prayer bead) or cross as a religious symbol along with their school uniform, NDTV reported.
“That is worn inside the shirt,” Justice Gupta, however, said. “Nobody is going to lift the shirt and see if someone is wearing a rudraksh.”
He added: “Problem here is that one particular community is insisting on a headscarf while all other communities are following the dress code. Students of other communities are not saying we want to wear this and that.”
The court will hear the matter next on September 8.