ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Hijab Verdict and (Un)Reasonable Restrictions

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On 15 March 2022, the Karnataka High Court released its verdict on the hijab issue. The ban on wearing hijabs in schools was upheld as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental rights of the petitioners. Simply put, the idea of a reasonable restriction arises from the understanding that a harm to a fundamental right can be reasonably excused if it prevents a bigger harm. Without going into legal technicality, I argue that the greater harms contended are simply not present and thus such an attack on fundamental rights is unwarranted.

One of the primary contentions against wearing hijabs was the contravention of the institution and the state’s “uniform” policy. However, to check whether this practice of wearing a hijab contravenes with such a policy, it is important to note its rationale. It is probably to remove the signs of class inequality or avoid additional financial pressures. The object behind a uniform might also be to create a sense of belongingness and association with the school, but association with school as an organisation and a group does not mean the relinquishment of one’s other associations. If the school as a group has the right to choose how people associate with it should dress, it is difficult to imagine why a religious group is any different. And if both groups have this right, it is unclear why they cannot coexist. The school policy can achieve its purpose by mandating its uniform, without excluding the clothes one chooses to wear as a part of their right to association, as long as it does not disrupt uniformity in colours or is not an expression of class inequality, etc. In India, this practice is already followed in the case of other religious clothing like Sikh turbans, which are often brought within the ambit of the school uniform by prescribing a colour.

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Updated On : 26th Mar, 2022
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