The bench, comprising Karnataka high court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice J.M. Khazi, that's hearing petitions challenging the state government's rule on dress code in schools, did not pass any interim order. (PTI)
New Delhi: A three-judge bench in Karnataka high court on Thursday adjourned the hearing of the petitions on the hijab issue to February 14. The court said it will pass an order directing reopening of colleges while asking students not to insist on wearing religious things till the disposal of the matter. The judges said peace and tranquility must be restored in the state. Later, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said schools and colleges will be re-opened in a phased manner in the state.
The bench, comprising Karnataka high court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice J.M. Khazi, that's hearing petitions challenging the state government's rule on dress code in schools, did not pass any interim order. The court asked the media to refrain from reporting on oral observations and wait till the final order.
"We are ready to decide the issue at the earliest. But we feel that peace and tranquility should be restored. Till the decision you should not insist on wearing these religious clothes which are not conducive," Chief Justice Awasthi said.
However, advocates for the petitioners raised objections to the interim restraint. "This will amount to suspension of our rights... We are told to choose between food and water and both are essential," senior advocate Devadatt Kamath, appearing for the petitioners, objected. While saying it is a matter of a few days, the CJ asked the petitioners to cooperate. To this, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said, "For few days we cannot be asked to suspend our faith."
While arguing for petitioners, Mr Hedge, while citing the Karnataka Educational Institutions Rules 1995, said, "There is no provision for penalty for infraction of a uniform code. In the Karnataka Education Act, penalties are largely for management."
The hijab issue also reached the Supreme Court on Thursday but the top court refused to intervene saying Karnataka HC is already hearing the case.
Meanwhile, after the court order, Karnataka CM said, "The last two days have been very peaceful. Today a three-member bench has, while adjourning the matter for Monday, appealed to all the schools to reopen but no religious dress codes should be followed by both sides. I appeal to everyone to work together and see that there is peace in the colleges. Schools will reopen from Monday for classes up to 10th standard. Degree colleges will reopen later. In the second stage, we will decide about reopening classes 11th-12th and other degree colleges as per the situation."
Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra said police have been directed to ensure law and order while maintaining extreme restraint in dealing with students. "Students should not fall prey to communal elements who are hell-bent on making the hijab issue a tool to disturb communal harmony," he added.
Meanwhile, political statements and protests on the hijab issue continued. On Thursday, Delhi Police detained AISA workers marching towards Karnataka Bhawan to protest against the state government's rule on dress code in schools. Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil appealed to political parties against staging protests or disturbing peace for political gains over the hijab row. The minister said it was "not appropriate" to stage protests in Maharashtra over any issue that has roots in some other state.
"We should avoid incidents that can further divide society. It’s unfortunate that some people are trying to gain political mileage out of it. Indian culture and the Constitution don't teach us to divide people on caste and religious lines. Our country is a secular country and we should behave accordingly," Maharashtra's deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said.
Telangana Rashtra Samiti MLC K. Kavitha said no one should interfere in the personal choice of people. "Such religious talk hinders opportunities for female students. Let's keep politics out of schools and colleges. I'm a married woman, I put vermilion whenever I want. It's a choice. As a society, we've no right to interfere in their personal choice."
However, BJP general secretary C.T. Ravi had a different view. "Uniforms should be donned in schools. You are free to wear whatever you want, outside school. Priyanka Gandhi said women can wear bikini but one can't go to school, college wearing a bikini. It's not right to play politics in schools."