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'Hijab not an essential part of Islam,' rules Karnataka high court

In a landmark verdict, the Karnataka high court on Tuesday ruled that hijab is not an essential part of Islam

Hijab not an essential part of Islam, rules Karnataka high court
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In a landmark verdict, the Karnataka high court on Tuesday ruled that hijab is not an essential part of Islam, in a way underlining the state government's restriction on the use of the head scarf by Muslim girls and women.

The three-judge bench of chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, justice Krishna S Dixit and justice JM Khazi said that taking a holistic view of the entire matter (surrounding the hijab ban), the bench has formulated a few questions and answered accordingly.

The questions raised were whether wearing hijab is an essential religious practice under the Islamic faith protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution; whether the prescription of school uniform is a violation of the student's rights under article 19 (A) (freedom of expression) and 21 (right to privacy); and the government order dated February 5, "issued without application of mind with manifestly arbitrary".

Karnataka education minister BC Nagesh hailed the verdict and tweeted, "I welcome the landmark judgement of Hon'ble Karnataka High Court on School/College uniform Rules. It reiterated that the law of the land is above everything."

The bench, constituted on February 9, heard a batch of petitions on a day-to-day basis over the last two weeks filed by some girls seeking permission to wear hijab in educational institutions.

The girls were denied entry into a pre-university government college for girls in Udupi on December 28 for wearing the headscarf, which triggered the debate.

On February 10, the high court issued an interim order that said students should not wear any religious attire to classes till the end of the hearing. On February 23, it clarified the order and said it is applicable to all degree and PU colleges having a dress code.

The exchange capped judicial proceedings that have held the interest of the nation over the past few weeks. The arguments in the case, crucial to what has turned into a larger debate around the display of religious identity in educational institutes and the treatment of minorities in the state, were largely centred on Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.

During the course of the hearing, the female students argued that wearing hijab is an essential religious practice under Islam and the suspension of the same, even for a few hours during school, undermines the community's faith and violates their fundamental rights under Articles 19 and 25 of the Constitution.

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