Karnataka invokes Indian state law to back hijab ban in educational institutions News
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Karnataka invokes Indian state law to back hijab ban in educational institutions

India’s Karnataka state government issued a Directive Saturday validating the decision of certain educational institutions to prohibit female students wearing a hijab from entering its premises.

Karnataka Department of Primary and Secondary Education Under Secretary Padmini SN invoked § 133(2) of the Karnataka Education Act to issue the Directive, which allows the state government to “give such directions to any educational institution or tutorial institution as in its opinion are necessary or expedient for carrying out the purposes of this Act or to give effect to any of the provisions contained therein”.

The Directive mandates students to wear a uniform chosen by the college development committee or the appellate committee of the administrative board of pre-university colleges. In case the administrative committee does not decide a dress-code, the Directive further provides that “clothes which disturb equality, integrity and public law and order should not be worn.”

The Directive cites Ranjan v. Bihar and Ors (2017), where the Supreme Court held that larger public interest prevails upon individual interests to ensure relationship between institutions and students. The Directive also states that the ban on wearing a hijab inside educational institutions does not violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

Relatedly, the Karnataka High Court is scheduled to hear petitions presented by five female students of  the Government Pre-University College in Udipi on Tuesday regarding the restrictions imposed on their right to wear a hijab inside the college campus. The court’s decision in that case is likely to have implications on Saturday’s Directive.