Hijab row: Public order not a ground to curb fundamental rights, say petitioners

Bengaluru, Feb 14 (IANS) The government can’t restrict fundamental rights in the garb of maintaining public order, the counsel for the girl students seeking permission to wear the hijab told the Karnataka High Court on Monday.
Meanwhile, the high court refused to intervene to restrain media from reporting the case hearing, as the advocate defending petitioners submitted that the hijab case will have an impact on voting in states where elections are underway. Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi stated that if at all they can do something, they will have to stop live streaming of the court proceedings. Other than this, they can’t take any measure to restrict media.
During the hearing on Monday, senior advocate Devdatt Kamat told the bench of Chief Justice Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice Khaji Jaibunnesa Mohiyuddin that the College Development Committee (CDC) has no legal statutory basis to frame rules on uniforms.
“The government’s decision in this regard shows lack of wisdom and a legislator heading the committee will decide on fundamental rights. It is not legal to restrict the wearing of hijab,” he argued.
Kamat stated that all Central schools run by the Central government are allowing the wearing of hijab and petitioners have been wearing hijab of the same colour as the uniform since long.
“The state has made a fatal error while referring to public order in its circular. There is not even mention of Article 21 in the quoted order by the government on the basis of which the circular restricting hijab is issued,” he said.
He maintained that the state is an outsider when it comes to the point of belief, though it seems regressive to others. Authorising college committees is equal to making mockery of the fundamental rights, he said, while maintaining that maintaining public order is an enshrined responsibility of the state and it can’t deny rights and say because certain acts incites violence, they are restricting students from wearing hijab.
Advocate Kamat pleaded that the bench should permit students to wear hijab of the same color of the uniform.
The bench subsequently adjourned the matter till Tuesday.
The bench had last week given an interim order that no religious symbols are allowed for the students in schools and colleges until the final order of the court, thus barring use of both hijab and saffron shawls in the school and college premises.
However, petitioners moved the Supreme Court challenging the interim order but it had rejected the demand of urgent hearing by petitioners and said that it will only interfere at an appropriate time. The state government has resumed function of schools till Class 10 and is expected to take call on reopening colleges soon.
The hijab row which started last month in Udupi Pre-University College by six girl students, has snowballed into a major crisis in the state and has hit international attention too.

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