There is discontentment among members of the majority community to do away with practices related to Islam, the counsel for a petitioner in the hijab ban case told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, reported Bar and Bench.
“It is simply poking at one aspect of a religion [hijab], saying let’s see if we can get this one aspect struck off,” Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan told the court.
A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia is 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.
The development came after in December and January, a group of Muslim students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi city were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. The students staged a protest, and similar demonstrations were held in other parts of Karnataka.
Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes. At some colleges, Muslim students were heckled, while in another case, some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Dhawan told the Supreme Court that the hijab ban case needs to be looked at in the perspective of discrimination against Muslims.
“This imposition [ban on hijab] came through the [school] development committees,” he said. “The students were heckled and they were discriminated against. That is what the case is really about.”
Dhawan argued that banning hijab was specific to Karnataka, and not a standard practice. The senior advocate also contended that if a religious practice is proven to be bona fide, it is permissible, reported Live Law.
Dhavan said that the High Court’s contention that hijab is not mandatory in Islam as there is no punishment prescribed in the Quran is “puzzling”. He said that High Court ignored the fact that millions of women wear the headscarf in a bona fide manner.
“According to the tenets of the faith, if something has been followed, it is allowed, if it is bonafide, you don’t have to go back to the text,” he argued. “We have to examine if the practice is prevalent and is bona fide. What is the dispute, whether it is an essential practice? If all over India, hijab is practiced, lordships will only see if it is a bona fide practice.”
Dhavan pointed out that hijab is permitted in public places and questioned the basis of not allowing it in classrooms and saying that it could disrupt public order.
“When you say you can’t allow burqa in school, it is reasonable, because you want to see the face,” the senior advocate said. “But what reasonable objection can be there to the headscarf?”