Karnataka Contemplates Repealing Hijab Ban in Classrooms
Initially the previous BJP government in Karnataka had instituted the ban on hijab in educational institutions which had prompted legal battles and ignited impassioned debates on cultural and religious freedoms.
- The present Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, has now signaled an impending withdrawal of this contentious order, emphasizing the right of individuals to make personal choices regarding their attire.
GS-02 (Fundamental Rights, Government policies and interventions)
- Chief Minister’s Pronouncement: At a recent event in Nanjangud, Mysuru district, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah addressed the hijab issue, unequivocally stating the government’s intention to rescind the ban. He affirmed the principle of unrestricted choice in attire, declaring that individuals are free to wear clothing aligned with their personal preferences.
- BJP’s Initial Ban: The ban on hijab in educational institutions was initially introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government preceding the current administration. The Department of Primary and Secondary Education issued a circular enforcing this prohibition in schools and Pre-University (PU) colleges, sparking a political maelstrom and eliciting diverse reactions from the public.
- Legal Battles and Public Outcry: The ban on hijab triggered widespread protests and counter-protests across the state. Subsequently, petitions challenging the order were presented in the Karnataka High Court in 2022. The court, in its ruling, upheld the validity of the circular, emphasizing the importance of prescribed uniforms in maintaining equality and public order. However, the Supreme Court’s subsequent split verdict added complexity to the issue, leading to its current status awaiting deliberation by a larger Bench.
- Political Dimensions and Electoral Promises: During the electoral campaigns, the Congress party had hinted at a possible revocation of the hijab ban if they assumed power. The Chief Minister’s recent public announcement reinforces this commitment, marking a significant step towards aligning governance with electoral promises.
Protection of Religious Freedom in the Constitution:
- Articles 25 to 28 in Part-3 (Fundamental Rights) grant the Right to freedom of religion.
- Article 25(1) guarantees the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate religion, ensuring a negative liberty with no state interference.
- Fundamental rights can be restricted by the state for reasons like public order, decency, morality, health, and other state interests.
- Article 26 allows freedom to manage religious affairs, considering public order, morality, and health.
- Article 27 prohibits compelling individuals to pay taxes for promoting or maintaining any specific religion.
- Article 28 ensures freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.