Sikh practices are deeply rooted in Indian culture and cannot be compared to hijab, says SC judge

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A Supreme Court judge hearing the case over hijabs in educational institutions in Karnataka remarked on Thursday that the wearing of the garment cannot be compared to Sikh religious practices, Live Act reported.

Judge Hemant Gupta remarked that Sikh practices were “well embedded in the culture of the country” and could not be compared to the practice of wearing the hijab.

“The comparison with Sikhs may not be appropriate,” Judge Gupta said. “The 5K of [Sikhism] were considered mandatory. There are judgments. The port of Kirpan is recognized by the Constitution. So don’t compare practices.

In response, Nizam Pasha, the lawyer for some of the petitioners, pointed out that Islam has been present in India for 1,400 years and the hijab is also present.

The Supreme Court is hearing a series of petitions challenging an order by the Karnataka High Court that in March upheld the state government’s ban on wearing the hijab in educational institutions.

Earlier in the hearing, Pasha had referred to parts of the High Court order which stated that wearing the hijab was at best a cultural practice. In this context, he told the Supreme Court that although it was a cultural practice, it was a protected practice, similar to the wearing of turbans by Sikhs.

Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, appearing for another petitioner, noted that the government of Karnataka has said that if students come to educational institutions wearing headscarves, other people will be offended, reported. PTI. He told the court that could not be the reason for the ban on the garment.

Kamat said freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution can only be restricted for reasons of public order, morality or health. He argued that not all religious practice is essential to the faith, but that does not imply that the government can continue to impose restrictions on such practice.

“As long as I don’t violate public order, I don’t violate morals and I don’t affect the health of others, I have a right to it,” he added.

Kamat asked the bench what fundamental right his client was violating by wearing a headscarf, according to PTI. However, the court said: “The question is what kind of fundamental right do you have that you want to exercise?”

The case will be heard further on September 12.

Hijab ban case

A controversy had erupted after a group of Muslim female students from the Udupi City Government Pre-University Women’s College were not allowed to attend classes in December and January because they wore the hijab. The students staged a protest and similar protests took place in other parts of Karnataka.

On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an ordinance prohibiting garments that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. The students then appealed to the High Court against the ban.

Days after the High Court upheld the ban, a group of students appealed to the Supreme Court claiming they would miss their exams because of the ban. However, Chief Justice NV Ramana had refused an urgent hearing in March, saying the hijab ban had nothing to do with the exams.

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