Bombay High Court dismiss plea challenging ban on burqa, hijab

The students are likely to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 10:30 IST

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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday dismissed the plea filed by a group of girl students challenging the ban imposed by a college in Mumbai on wearing hijab, niqab, burkha, stole and caps.

The students are likely to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

A division bench comprising Justice A S Chandurkar and Justice Rajesh Patil dismissed the plea saying that it was not inclined to interfere in the decision of the college administration.

The students were from Chembur Trombay Education Society's N G Acharya and D K Marathe College.

“We are satisfied that the Instructions issued by the College under which a dress code has been prescribed for its students does not suffer from any infirmity so as to violate provisions of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 25 of the Constitution of India. The object behind issuing the same is that the dress of a student should not reveal his/her religion which is a step towards ensuring that the students focus on gaining knowledge and education which is in their larger interest,” the Bombay High Court bench ruled.

“The decision of the college administration was arbitrary, unreasonable, bad-in-law and perverse,” the petition has claimed.

The second and third years of B.Sc and B.Sc (Computer Science) programmes, in the petition, had claimed that the new dress code violates their fundamental rights to privacy, dignity, and religious freedom.

“The Instructions have been issued by the College Administration in exercise of its right to administer the educational institution under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 26 of the Constitution of India. The writ petition therefore fails. It is accordingly dismissed with no order as to costs,” the two judges noted in their order dismissing the petition.

The court said - “In the writ petition, it has been pleaded that the petitioners have been donning a Hijab and/or Nakab for last few years. The pleadings in the writ petition to support the plea that donning of a Hijab or Nakab is an essential religious practice however are insufficient. Except for stating that the same constitutes an essential religious practice on the basis of the English translation of Kanz-ul-Iman and Suman Abu Dawud, there is no material placed to uphold the petitioners’ contention that donning of Hijab and Nakab is an essential religious practice. The contention in that regard therefore fails.”

"Apart from the right to practice their religion, the petitioners were also relying on their right to choice and privacy while opposing the college's decision,” said Altaf Khan, the lawyer of the petitioners.

Asked about what decision he would take, he said that he would consult the parents of students and take a final call. “We would stay the grounds and then take a decision to move the apex court,” he said.

Advocate Anil Anturkar, who represented the college, said that the ban applies to all religious symbols and is not targeted at Muslims. “The dress code applies to all students, not just Muslims,” he said.

"Our Constitution allows everyone in the country to follow their religion. We hope that the Supreme Court will definitely allow girls to wear hijab in schools and colleges,” said Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi.

Besides moving the court, the girl students have also written to the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor of the Mumbai University and the University Grants Commission, requesting their intervention to uphold the spirit of imparting education to all citizens without discrimination.

Published 26 June 2024, 10:30 IST

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