Student moves Supreme Court against HC ruling on hijab

Denying Muslim girls like her access to education, and therefore punishing them for wearing the hijab in college, is a violation of their right to privacy, she says

Denying Muslim girls like her access to education, and therefore punishing them for wearing the hijab in college, is a violation of their right to privacy, she says

A student petitioned the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the judgment of the Karnataka High Court, which ruled that wearing the hijab is not an essential practice in Islam.

Niha Naaz, represented by barrister Anas Tanwir, contradicted the High Court’s finding by arguing that “the Indian legal system explicitly recognizes the wearing/wearing of religious symbols…The Motor Vehicle Act exempts Sikhs from wearing a turban to wearing a helmet… Sikhs are allowed to carry kirpans on an airplane”.

She said denying Muslim girls like her access to education, and therefore punishing them for wearing the hijab in college, was a violation of their right to privacy. “Freedom of conscience is part of the right to privacy,” her petition said.

“The law must be proportionate”

Any violation of his right to privacy must be based on a valid law, for a legitimate interest of the State and the law must be proportionate. No law prohibits the hijab, she says.

Ms Naaz argued that the High Court judgment had created a “dichotomy between freedom of religion and freedom of conscience”.

“That freedom would include the freedom to legally express one’s identity in any way one pleases,” she referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case.

The student said she and several others like her had approached the High Court, expecting it to protect her basic rights and overturn a state government order of February 5 directing development committees to colleges to prescribe uniforms for them.

She called the state government’s order a “ridiculous attack” on female Muslim students wearing the hijab under the “pretext of achieving secularism and equality on the basis of uniform”.

“The state cannot prescribe uniforms”

She said the state cannot prescribe student uniforms. It was up to educational institutions to do so. Also, the law did not provide for the formation of “college development committees”. Also, the Karnataka Educational Institutions Rules of 1995 did not require a school or institution to prescribe a uniform. In their case, no uniform had been prescribed by their respective institutions.

The law did not require a student to be punished for not wearing a particular uniform. Denying students like her access to classrooms was illegal, she argued.

In February, in a petition related to the Karnataka hijab controversy, the Supreme Court made an opening remark that it would protect students’ constitutional rights and intervene at the “appropriate time”.

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