Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the BJP-governed state, told a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia that the state is not questioning whether hijab is an essential Islamic practice or not.
“The state has statutory powers to ask the schools to enforce the uniform dress code decided by them to promote unity and equality. It is an irreligious and secular order. Educational institutions are not Vedshalas or madrasas where students are required to wear religious identity specific clothes,” Mehta said.
As the state argued only on its statutory power and shunned the bait thrown by Muslim sides claiming hijab to be a religious practice, whether essential or not, to get protection of Constitution, Justice Dhulia said the Karnataka high court could have avoided getting into testing the essentiality of hijab and that too based on commentaries and interpretations of Quran by scholars without bothering to go into the original verses of the holy book.
Mehta agreed with Justice Dhulia’s prima facie view on the correctness of the HC’s approach in adjudicating the controversy, but said the petitioners approached the HC claiming hijab to be essential religious practice but failed to prove their case even by relying on Quran.
He said the school uniform has to be worn as prescribed. “Enforcing school uniforms does not hurt anyone’s sensibility or religious sensitivity. If each student’s interpretation of their religious text mandated dress code is taken into account and clothing supposedly mandated by religion is allowed to be worn over and above the uniform, then there will be no discipline leading to violation of unity and equality,” the SG said.
Mehta said that hijab is non-mandatory, even if one does not want to apply the essentiality test. “Even women where the religion originated are rebelling against the strict Sharia dress code,” he said.