BENGALURU: All students, regardless of religion or faith, are restrained from wearing “saffron shawls (bhagwa), scarves, hijabs, religious flags within classrooms”, a full bench of the Karnataka high court has ruled in an interim order that it said is applicable only to those institutions that have prescribed a dress code or uniform.
The order, passed on Thursday, was released on Friday. The bench of CJ Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi said it is pained by ongoing agitations and closure of educational institutions when the court is seized of the matter and issues of constitutional significance and personal law are being debated.

We make it clear that this order is confined to such institutions wherein college development committees (CDCs) have prescribed a student dress code/uniform,” the bench said. Adjourning the hearing to Monday, the bench requested the state government and all stakeholders to reopen educational institutions and allow students to return to classes.
“Ours is a country of plural cultures, religions and languages,” the bench said. “Being a secular state, it does not identify itself with any religion as its own. Every citizen has the right to profess and practise any faith of choice. However, such a right, not being absolute, is susceptible to reasonable restrictions as provided by the Constitution. Whether wearing of hijab in the classroom is a part of essential religious practice of Islam in the light of constitutional guarantees needs deeper examination,” it said.

The court added that in a civilised society like India no person can be permitted to disturb public peace and tranquillity in the name of religion, culture or the like.
“Endless agitations and closure of educational institutions indefinitely are not happy things to happen. The hearing of these matters on an urgent basis is continuing. Prolonging academic terms would be detrimental to the educational career of students, especially when the timelines for admission to higher studies/courses are mandatory. The interest of students would be better served by their returning to classes than by the continuation of agitations and consequent closure of institutions,” the bench observed.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, who appeared for the petitioner-students from a Udupi college told the court that all stakeholders should show tolerance so that students professing and practising the Islamic faith can attend classes wearing the hijab and institutions should not insist upon the removal of the hijab as a condition for entry to classrooms.

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