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The Hijab Controversy

India is always a land of various religions and cultures. People are divided on the basis of caste. Discrimination on the basis of caste, color, race, and gender is a debatable topic that caught the fire when the "Hijab Controversy" took place. The issue arose, that "is hijab is an essential religious practice for Muslims in India". The topic was first directed to Karnataka High Court and later on diverted to the Supreme Court of India.

In PU college in Udupai, the Muslim girls wearing hijab were restricted to enter the classrooms. The students protested against this rule and five girls filed a writ petition in Karnataka High Court and also approached the National Human Rights Commission. The students contended that they cannot be forced not to enter the classrooms on the ground of wearing a hijab. The Karnataka government issued an order that students have to comply with the dress code prescribed by the College Development Committees.

The four issues arose:
  1. Is Hijab essential in Islam

    The most important issue before the Karnataka High Court was whether wearing a hijab is an essential part of religious practice in Islam? Secondly, is the hijab comes under the ambit of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution? Article 25 of the Constitution ensures the Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion subject to public order, morality, and health. This right is not considered a sacrosanct right.

    The Karnataka High Court bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justices JM Khazi and Krishna Dixit ruled that "wearing a hijab was not an essential part of Islam".
    The bench said, "We are of the considered opinion that the wearing of the hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of the essential religious practice in the Islamic faith."
     
  2. Another question that arose was whether the fixing of uniforms by school administration for students is violative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution?

    The court held that the rule of wearing uniform was in existence since gurukul days. So, the bench held that the school uniform is only a reasonable restriction that is constitutionally permissible and hence it does not violate Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. It was further added that the school uniform ceases to be uniform if the same color hijab is allowed.
     
  3. Is uniform discriminatory?

    Another question that made the court discuss upon was, whether the order passed by the government on 5th February to ban wearing hijab on campus was incompetent and arbitrary. It will be violative of Articles 14 & 15 of the Constitution of India i.e. equality before the law and protection against discrimination on the ground of religion. It was held by the Karnataka High Court that, the government has the power to issue the directions related to ban of clothes that may cause disturbance to peace, harmony and public order. The High Court upheld the government order and its competence for issuing such an order.
     
  4. Whether the teachers harass the students?

    Another issue that arose was that the principal, teachers, and the panel members are responsible for banning the hijab in classrooms, is it wrong against the students? The court held that the idea of uniform brings uniformity and homogeneity. The secularism under the Indian Constitution needs to be maintained to protect the basic structure of the Constitution.
Conclusion
The court upheld the decision of the government passed on 5th February. It was held by the Karnataka High Court that, "wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice under Islamic faith." It is not protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. Later on, the case moved to the Supreme Court of India which held that "wearing hijab is the essential religious practice under Islamic faith."

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