Hijab row: Advocate General seeks time to respond to petitions by Muslim girls

Advocate Vinod Kulkarni, whose petition is under consideration, told the bench the issue was creating hysteria among the Muslim girls

New Delhi: The Karnataka high court on Thursday adjourned its hearing on the petitions filed by five Muslim girls against a ban on hijabs in classrooms after state advocate-general Prabhuling Navadgi sought time to respond to the petitions. The hearing will resume on Friday. The AG said he was awaiting some orders by the state government. The three-judge high court bench said the state can modify its government order.

Advocate Vinod Kulkarni, whose petition is under consideration, told the bench the issue was creating hysteria and affecting the mental health of the Muslim girls, and “as per the Preamble of the Constitution, guarding health is the duty of the State”. He sought interim relief to allow Muslim girls to wear the hijab, at least on Fridays. “Banning the hijab is almost tantamount to banning the Quran,” he argued.

“I am a devout Brahmin myself… my submission is that it may amount to the banning of the Quran. My submission is: please pass an order today to allow wearing of the hijab on Fridays and during Ramzan,” Mr Kulkarni said, as he cited the song “Kuch Pakar Kuch Khona hain”.

The high court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by a social activist saying it was not maintainable, and told advocate Rahamathulla Kotwal, representing the social activist, that the court’s precious time was being wasted while it was considering such an important matter.

Senior advocate A.M. Dar, representing another set of five girl students from Bengaluru, said the government order on the hijab would affect his clients who wear the hijab, and said that the order was unconstitutional. However, the court asked Mr Dar to withdraw the petition and granted him the liberty to file a fresh one.

Another advocate suggested mediation to resolve the issue, to which the court said mediation was possible only if both the petitioners and the respondents (the State and the college development committees) agree.

Karnataka education minister B.C. Nagesh held a meeting with Muslim legislators on Thursday in an effort to get the Muslim girls to return to the classrooms by adhering to the high court order that temporarily barred the hijab and other religious clothing in classes. “There is a need for a revised uniform policy. A lot of controversy has occurred at present. We will wait for the HC order to come up with a new policy,” said Mr Nagesh, whose office described the interaction as a “goodwill meeting”.

The state government says the hijab row is continuing only in eight high schools and pre-university colleges, out of a total 75,000 in Karnataka, while expressing confidence that the issue would be resolved soon.

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