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Wearing hijab is not essential religious practice, says Karnataka High Court:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.



The verdict has come on petitions filed by Muslims girls seeking the right to wear hijabs or head scarves along with uniforms inside classrooms.


What has the court ruled?

  • An essential religious practice: Wearing of the hijab by Muslim women does not make up an essential religious practice in Islamic faith.
  • A reasonable restriction: The prescription of a school uniform is a reasonable restriction constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to.
  • The government has the power to restrict the wearing of hijabs in colleges where uniforms are prescribed.

Therefore, the prescription of school uniform does not violate the petitioners fundamental rights guaranteed under article 19 1 a of the constitution that is freedom of expression and article 21 that is privacy.


What constitutes an essential religious practice? Who decides on it?

Shirur Mutt case in 1954: The doctrine of “essentiality” was invented by the Supreme Court. The court held that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practices “integral” to a religion, and took upon itself the responsibility of determining the essential and non-essential practices of a religion.


What constitutes a reasonable restriction?

  1. Sovereignty and integrity of India.
  2. Security of the state.
  3. Friendly relations with foreign states.
  4. Public order.
  5. Decency or morality.
  6. Contempt of court.
  7. Defamation.
  8. Incitement to an offence.


What are Kerala High Court’s rulings on Hijab?

In Amna Bint Basheer v Central Board of Secondary Education (2016), the Kerala High Court held that the practice of wearing a hijab constitutes an essential religious practice but did not quash the dress code prescribed by CBSE. It rather provided additional safeguards, such as examining students wearing full sleeves when needed.

In Fathima Tasneem v State of Kerala (2018), Kerala HC held that collective rights of an institution would be given primacy over the individual rights of the petitioner. The case involved two girls who wanted to wear the headscarf. The school refused to allow the headscarf. However, the court dismissed the appeal as students were no longer in the rolls of the respondent-School.



Prelims Link:

  1. Definition of state under article 12.
  2. Article 13(3) is related to?
  3. Writ jurisdiction of Supreme Court and High Courts.
  4. Overview of Articles 21 and 25.

Mains Link:0

Discuss the significance of freedom of religion under the Indian Constitution.

Sources: Indian Express.