On Monday, the Advocate General of Karnataka has told the High Court that efforts had already been initiated by the state to make sure that the officials in the Education Department do not act in an untoward manner with the Muslim girls while implementing the interim order of the court that had barred religious symbols in educational institutes such as colleges where dress codes had been prescribed until the matter was decided.
Prabhuling Navadgi, the Advocate General reacted to the memorandum that was presented by Mohammed Tahir who is an advocate for the petitioners against the hijab ban in some of the colleges in Udupi where Muslim girl students were not allowed to enter the premises of colleges as per orders by authority. The interim order by the High Court of Karnataka which was announced on February 10 mentioned that dress codes can only be enforced if they had been prescribed but it has been interpreted by the state and educational authorities as a ban on wearing any religious attire to educational institutions.
The Advocate General had told the full bench of the High Court that he had addressed a letter to the Chief Secretary of the state asking him to convene a meeting of all the concerned parties. He added that he had also communicated with the Principal Secretary of the Education Department of the state and they had assured him that nothing untoward will be done and all action taken in this regard will be reported to the court.
The full bench of the High Court consisted of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna M Dixit, and Justice Jaibunnisa M Khazi and the bench was hearing the batch of petitions that were filed against the hijab ban that had led to various protests on campuses all over the state. On Monday, the question was raised by the full bench as to whether it was necessary for the court to interfere in the issue of whether Hijab was an essential religious practice and also whether it would be considered as a part of the fundamental right to freedom of religion mentioned in the Indian Constitution.
Navadgi has contended that the question of whether Hijab is considered as a fundamental right was at the core of the pleas before the High Court. He said that if an institution was to ban or permit Hijab, the court will be taking as and when the situation will arise. He further said that as a matter of principle whether students should be allowed to wear any dress or apparel that has symbolic value to the religion, the preamble of Education Act of Karnataka itself has sought to seek a secular outlook. The stand that would be taken by the state was that religious elements should not be introduced in educational institutes.
As part of his response to the arguments put forward by the petitioners, the Advocate General said that they had sought a declaration that every woman who was a follower of the Islam religion was required to wear the Hijab so that every Muslim woman could be bound.