Students file petition demanding revocation of ban on Hijab, Burqa inside private college

The Karnataka High Court previously dismissed demands, asserting that wearing a head scarf is not a spiritual necessity in the practice of Islam

A group of Muslim women students of a private degree college in Mumbai have sought a special amendment to the college management order that banned wearing full body veils, also known as burqas, in classes. The students argued in their hijab petition that the Niqab is part of their belief as Muslims.

The order was released by the NG Acharya and DK Marathe College of Arts, Science, and Commerce, located in the northeastern Chembur area of Mumbai, at some point in early May for the new academic year starting in June 2024–25. The management disseminated the order to students via online messaging apps. The order stated, “You shall follow the dress code of the college of formal and decent dress, which shall not reveal anyone’s religion, such as no burqa, no niqab, no hijab, no cap, no badge, no stole, etc. Only full of half-shirts and normal trousers for boys and any Indian or western non-revealing dress for girls on the college campus. Changing rooms are available for girls.”

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The order came after several months of tension between students who refused to remove their veils inside classrooms and the management, which insisted that veils be removed at the college entrance. To facilitate this, the management allocated a room near the entrance for students to remove their veils.

The Hijab controversy: Another legal battle unfolds

According to reports, the nine petitioners are second- and third-year undergraduate students. Upon learning of the order, they requested the management lift the restriction on Niqab, burqa, and hijab. It is important to note that while the hijab typically covers the hair and neck, the naqab and burqa are full-body veils that even cover the eyes.

After the college management refused to rescind the order, the students took their case to court. In their petition, they argue that the order is “nothing but a colorable excuse for power” and “arbitrary, unreasonable, bad-in-law, perverse, null, and void.”.

Their petition, filed by advocate Altaf Khan, stated, “That the Niqab and hijab are integral parts of the petitioners’ religious beliefs.” That apart, it is the free will, choice, and right to privacy of the petitioners to continue wearing niqab and hijab in the classroom of the senior college.” According to reports, the case is expected to be heard by a division bench comprising Justices A. S. Chandurkar and Rajesh Patil on June 18.

Issues concerning Muslim women students wearing burqas over school uniforms have been in the news since December 2021, with disturbances reported in Karnataka and other regions of the country. In January 2022, three students from different educational institutions filed separate written petitions before the Karnataka High Court seeking permission to wear a veil, a piece of cloth covering the head, hair, and neck that is commonly known as a hijab and worn inside the class.

The Karnataka High Court dismissed demands, asserting that wearing a head scarf is not a spiritual necessity in the practice of Islam. This was done to disentitle the original appellants to relief. The petitioners took the matter to the Supreme Court, where a two-judge bench gave a split verdict in August 2022, which required reference to a larger bench. The formation of this larger bench is yet to come into existence. The correspondent, who had covered the matter extensively, expressed concern over Karnataka hijab petitions and how the students could be demanding head scarves and the next minute demanding burqas.

You might also be interested in – Iran reintroduces new stricter Hijab laws despite months of Anti-Hijab protests

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