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‘Hijab and Niqab are an integral part of Islam’: Petition in Bombay High Court by Muslim students seeks permission to wear Hijab and Niqab in College

Nine students from a Mumbai college named Acharya Marathe College filed a petition in the Bombay High Court after the college management refused to withdraw the uniform policy.

Female Muslim students in Mumbai, in their latest petition, have sought permission not only for the Hijab but also for wearing a veil covering the face. The petitioners have made these demands while challenging a new uniform policy introduced by a private college that prohibited them from wearing religious clothing such as the Hijab. 

Notably, nine students from a Mumbai college named Acharya Marathe College filed a petition in the Bombay High Court after the college management refused to withdraw the uniform policy. As per reports, the nine petitioners include second and third-year undergraduate students. 

The College, which is located in the Chembur suburb of Mumbai, had introduced the new uniform policy for degree college students. The directive barred students from wearing hijabs, burqas, niqabs and other religious clothing within the campus. It stated that the dress code would come into force in the academic year starting in June 2024. The development came a year after a similar uniform policy was enforced for its junior college students. 

The college passed this order at the beginning of May which was circulated among students through online messaging apps. The order had said, “You shall follow the dress code of college of formal and decent dress which shall not reveal anyone’s religion such as no burqa, no nakab (niqab), no hijab, no cap, no badge, no stole, etc. Only full or half shirt and normal trousers for boys and any Indian/western non-revealing dress for girls on the college campus. Changing room available for girls.”

Meanwhile, in their petition, the female Muslim students have contested that the order is “nothing but colourable excuse of power” and “arbitrary, unreasonable, bad-in-law, perverse, null and void”. The petition has argued before the court that the burqa, hijab, niqab, cap, and stole are an integral part of Islam and that such a dress code is violative of their fundamental rights.

Notably, while a hijab typically covers the hair and neck, the niqab (naqab) covers the face except eyes, and burqa are full-body veils.

The petition filed by counsel Altaf Khan states, “Naqab and hijab are an integral part of the petitioners’ religious belief and it is their free will, choice and a part of their right to privacy to continue wearing the naqab and hijab in the classroom.”

It further added, “The college/ trust did not explain under which provision of law they have imposed restriction/ban on particular clothing/ dress. Thus, the notice/ direction is liable to be quashed and set aside.” 

As per reports, a division bench of justices A S Chandurkar and Rajesh Patil is likely to hear the matter on 18th June.

It is pertinent to note that a major row over uniforms in educational institutions rocked the national discourse after several Muslim students protested in Karnataka using banners that read, “Pahle Hijab, fir Kitab” (‘Hijab first, books later’). 

Hijab row in Karnataka

In February 2022, some Muslim students from a PU College in Udupi filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court to allow them to attend classes wearing a Hijab. They were denied entry into classes after the college management made it clear that the hijab was not part of the uniform.

Following that, the ‘students’ launched protests while being dressed in burqas. They had started wearing hijab and burqa to their school and college in defiance of the uniform rules since December 2021 after coming in touch with the radical outfit, Campus Front of India (CFI).

On 15th March 2022, the Karnataka High Court held that the Hijab is not an essential practice in Islam and that uniform is a reasonable restriction on the Right to Religion. Subsequently, the petitioners challenged it in the Supreme Court. In August 2022, a two-judge bench of the apex court delivered a split verdict, leading to the case being referred to a larger bench of the Supreme Court. The formation of this bench is currently pending.

Ever since the Hijab controversy erupted in Karnataka, there have been concerns that it could escalate further, as Muslim students may demand permission not only for Hijab but also for full-body veils. Strikingly, this is now being sought in the latest petition by Muslim female students of a private college.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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