Four Key Takeaways From Karnataka HC's Ruling Upholding The Hijab Ban

In a well reasoned judgement, the Karnataka High Court amply clarifies that wearing hijab is not the essence of Muslim religion.

The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday upheld the government order facilitating the enforcement of the proscription of the hijab (headscarf) while prescribing the uniform for students who profess the Islamic faith.

While, the Judgement has given rise to myriad perspectives and interpretations, here is a simple analysis of the 129 well reasoned Judgement. 

Quran does not mandate wearing of Hijab

The petitioners primarily contended that the Quran injuncts Muslim women to wear hijab whilst in public gaze. However, the court was of the view that wearing hijab was recommended as a measure of social security for women and to facilitate their safe access to public domain. 

"The Quran shows concern for the cases of ‘molestation of innocent women’ and therefore, it recommended wearing of this and other apparel as a measure of social security", it said.

Wearing Hijab not the essence of Muslim religion

In determining the essentiality of a religious practice, it is crucial to consider whether the practice is prescribed to be of an obligatory nature within that religion. If a practice is optional, it has been held that it cannot be said to be ‘essential’ to a religion. A practice claimed to be essential must be such that the nature of the religion would be altered in the absence of that practice.

The essence of Muslim religion or Islam cannot be said to have been interfered with by directing petitioner not to wear head-scarf in the school,”  the court said.

In its judgement, the Karnataka High Court has said that the Petitioners have miserably failed to meet the threshold requirement of pleadings and proof as to wearing hijab is an inviolable religious practice in Islam and much less a part of ‘essential religious practice.’

"There is absolutely no material placed on record to prima facie show that wearing of hijab is a part of an essential religious practice in Islam.

Ground of conscience is perfunctory

During the hearing, some of the petitioners argued that regardless of right to religion, the girl students have the freedom of conscience guaranteed under Article 25 itself and that they have been wearing hijab as a matter of conscience and therefore, interdicting this overt act is offensive to their conscience and thus, is violative of their fundamental right.

The High Court of Karnataka in its verdict on Tuesday dealt with facet of conscience calling it subjective. 

"Whether the petitioners had the conscience of the kind and how they developed it are not averred in the petition with material particulars," the Bench led by by Justice Awasthi said.

"Pleadings at least for urging the ground of conscience are perfunctory, to say the least", HC said earlier today, it added.

Unseen hands at work to create social disharmony

The way, hijab imbroglio unfolded gives scope for the argument that some ‘unseen hands’ are at work to create social unrest. 

The timing of the uproar during the elections and with the ongoing political brick batting around an issue concerning an individual choice suggests that vested interests are at play.

We are dismayed as to how all of a sudden that too in the middle of the academic term the issue of hijab is generated and blown out of proportion by the powers that be, the court said.

While the Karnataka High Court amply clarifies that wearing hijab is not the essence of Muslim religion, it remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will take an alternate view on the issue. 

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