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Hijab row: Single judge refers case to Karnataka HC CJ citing constitutional questions

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Bengaluru:  The single judge of the Karnataka High Court hearing the case related to the Hijab ban in school-college campuses referred the matter to Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi on Wednesday with a view that he may decide on constituting a larger bench to look into it, as the state cabinet, which met earlier before the HC order came in, decided to await the verdict before taking any decision on the issue which has snowballed into a major row.

Calm prevailed today in the educational institutions which witnessed tense moments over the Hijab row earlier, as the state government had on Tuesday ordered closure of all high schools and colleges in the state for three days. Most of them returned to the online mode of teaching, sources said. Primary schools functioned as usual across the state without any interruption.

Justice Krishna S Dixit who was hearing since Tuesday a batch of petitions against Hijab ban in classrooms filed by Muslim students from Udupi district, maintained that these matters give rise to certain constitutional questions of seminal importance in view of certain aspects of personal law.

“In view of the enormity of questions of importance which were debated, the court is of the considered opinion that the Chief Justice should decide if a larger bench can be constituted in the subject matter,” Justice Dixit said.

The bench was also of the view that the interim prayers should also be placed before larger bench that may be constituted by Chief Justice Awasthi exercising his discretion, Justice Dixit noted in the order.

The petitions were filed by some Muslim girls studying in Government Pre-University colleges in Udupi district against a ban on their entry into classrooms with their hijabs on.

The Karnataka cabinet, which met on Wednesday morning before the High Court order came in, decided to wait for its verdict on the ‘hijab’ row, before taking any further decision on the matter, which has snowballed into a major controversy.

“We (at the cabinet) discussed the Hijab row, but as the High Court is hearing the matter, we felt it is not appropriate for the cabinet to take any further decisions on the issue today. It was decided to wait for the court’s verdict before taking any decision,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy said.

As protests for and against wearing of the headscarf by Muslim women students in class-rooms intensified in different parts of Karnataka and turned violent in some places, the government on Tuesday declared a holiday to all high schools and colleges in the state for three days.

Last week, the government had issued an order making uniforms prescribed by it or management of private institutions mandatory for its students at schools and pre-university colleges across the State.

Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra and Revenue Minister R Ashoka on Wednesday accused the Congress of fuelling the Hijab row.

“Congress leaders are adding fuel to the fire in connection with the Hijab issue. If they continue to do so in future, people in Karnataka will throw them in the Arabian Sea,” Jnanendra told reporters here.

He said Congress Karnataka chief D K Shivakumar has given wrong information to the media that the Indian tricolour was brought down in Shivamogga and was replaced with saffron flag.

“National tricolour is never flown all the time. Shivakumar is speaking irresponsibly. We can understand the motive behind such statement coming from a senior leader ,” the minister said.

Denouncing Congress, Ashoka said, “It is not good for the Congress to instigate people. They give some statement and instigate people. Congress’ conspiracy is clearly visible in this issue. One section is fanning this issue while the other is trying to douse it.”

Meanwhile, the Bengaluru police commissioner Kamal Pant has promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC against any gathering, agitation, or protests of any type within the area of 200 metre radius from the gates of the schools, pre-university colleges, degree colleges or other similar educational institutions in Bengaluru City for a period of two weeks from Wednesday till February 22.

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