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Karnataka hijab row: What new govt order on student uniforms says

Karnataka hijab row: What is the new order issued by the state government on uniforms? What was the trigger?

Written by Johnson T A , Edited by Explained Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: February 10, 2022 11:46:54 am
Students wearing hijab at the campus of Government PU College, Kundapura, Karnataka Monday.

An order issued by the Karnataka government’s Department for Pre-University Education on February 5 has not made uniforms compulsory in pre-university colleges, but has attempted to argue that banning headscarves or hijabs for students attending classes is not a violation of the right to practise their religion.

The trigger

The government order seems directed at justifying a recent ban on Muslim girl students for attending class wearing headscarves or Hijabs in a few government pre-university colleges in the state. The Karnataka high court is set to address this issue on Tuesday following pleas by affected Muslim girls.

Last week, a letter issued by the Under-Secretary of the Pre-University Education department had stated that “there is no uniform prescribed by the department” and that “after the incident in Udupi district where students demanded to be allowed to attend college in clothes of their choice (hijab), the state government has decided to analyse the court orders in this issue” to prescribe a policy for uniforms.

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The education minister B C Nagesh said on Sunday that new rules for uniforms in PU colleges issued on February 5 were meant to emphasise that uniforms prescribed by college managements will remain in force for the current academic year including a ban on hijabs in classrooms in some colleges.

The new order

It states that students in all government pre-university colleges must follow the rules for uniforms set by the local college development council and that in colleges where no uniform is prescribed efforts must be made to ensure unity.


The order also says that all government schools have to abide by the uniform policy prescribed by the state and that private schools can have uniforms as decided by their councils. At present, uniforms are mandated in state-run schools but are optional in PU colleges.

The three-page order states that the state government can prescribe rules for curricula “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women” under section 7 (2) (g) (v) of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983 and that the state has powers under section 133 (2) of the Education Act to issue directions to institutions for implementing provisions of the law.

It states that school and college councils have the responsibility of maintaining equality on their campuses while imparting education. “However, it has been noticed by the education department that in some educational institutions students are following the customs of their respective religions and this is affecting the equality and uniformity in the institutions.”


The order quotes judgments of the Supreme Court and various High Courts to argue that banning hijabs in schools and colleges is not a violation of the fundamental right to practise religion as prescribed by Article 25 of the Constitution. These include a Kerala High Court judgment on December 4, 2018, in which it quoted a Supreme Court observation in Asha Renjan and others vs State of Bihar (2017) to state that “individual interest must yield to larger public interest”.

The reference

Incidentally, the government cites Clause 7(2)(g) of the Karnataka Education Act — which is meant to prescribe curricula — in issuing the order on dress codes that maintain equality and unity on pre-university college campuses.

Clause 7(2)(g) says the curriculum must inculcate “the sense of following duties enshrined in the Constitution” and Section 7(2)(g)(i) says curricula must teach students “to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem”.

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First published on: 07-02-2022 at 08:52:38 pm
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