Karnataka high court\'s interim order only to students, not to teachers

Karnataka HC Chief Justice further said that the order is clear that it is only for schools and colleges where uniforms are prescribed

New Delhi: Karnataka high court clarified on Wednesday that its interim order of no religious garments in schools and colleges applies only to students, not to teachers. Karnataka HC Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi further said that the order is clear that it is only for schools and colleges where uniforms are prescribed. “If uniform is prescribed, they have to follow it, whether it is a degree college or a PU college,” he said.

The high court’s clarification came when, amid arguments on the petition to allow wearing hijabs in schools and colleges, lawyers told the court that even teachers are being forced to take off their hijabs and a lecturer in a private college in Karnataka had resigned after she was reportedly stopped from wearing hijab or displaying any religious symbol.

Senior advocate S. Nagananad, representing College Development Council (CDC), showed the bench a picture of the Aadhaar card of two of the petitioners who are not wearing a hijab. “So it is not as if these students are professing any faith in that sense that they must always be wearing hijab in public,” he argued.
He further said that the Karnataka government has not prescribed any uniforms and has left it to institutions to decide. He said the CDC has prescribed the uniform since 2004 without any objections.

Blaming Campus Front of India (CFI) for instigating students on the hijab issue, he told the court: “It was decided in 2004 to make uniforms compulsory. There was no problem and students were attending classes... On December 21, 2021, some parents met college authorities insisting that girls should be allowed to wear hijab. The principal requested that they wear uniforms… It was not a problem 20 years ago. CFI and other institutions have instigated children and their parents... There are highly orthodox Brahmins in school. Boys after upanayanam are not supposed to wear a stitched shirt or cloth. What if these boys say that this is their religion? Everybody can do whatever they want and justification is religion,” he argued.

He also referred to the noise pollution case where Hindu petitioners made a plea that bursting crackers is part of their festival and must be permitted. "Another argument that has been put forward to remove the restrictions during festivals is that they are celebrated by most of the people and that an inconvenience to a few should not become the reason for restraining a greater lot," he said while reading the Supreme Court order.

Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, who too made submissions on behalf of CDC, said freedom of conscience is absolute, but the right to practice, profess and propagate religion is subject to Article 25(2). Under Article 25(2), there is nothing that prevents the state from making a law or regulating any activity associated with religious practice, he argued. “To remove discrimination we have the same uniform, whether they are rich or poor, whether Hindu, Muslim or another religion…Even assuming it (hijab) is an essential religious practice, as a school I am obligated under the Constitution to ensure that no religious symbol enters the school and I have this right under Article 25 (2) especially as a public school,” Poovayya said.

“When religion was formed and these embodiments came in our holy texts, society may have had certain standards. Maybe that time women had to wear a particular attire. Today community standards are not by religious texts, it is maintained by rule of law… When rule of law maintains community standards, the question is what is the need to have protective attire for females on the basis that females should be protected from gaze of males. Again I ask, why should we teach our girl child to dress modestly and not boy child. As a school I have the obligation to gradually go towards gender neutral uniforms,” said Poovayya.

Advocate Poovayya further argued that imparting education by public instruction is a secular activity of the state. Therefore, interference of religion with secular education should be kept to a minimum. “Imposing uniforms in school is to ensure that it is secular, it is public order. Therefore, when I prescribe uniforms, religion is irrelevant and I am entitled to do so,” he said.

Next Story