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IANS

Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi on Tuesday told the High Court that the judicial decision on hijab will have binding on "constitutional morality" and "individual dignity".

"When we impose, the element of choice of dress goes away. The woman will be obligated to wear that dress. It becomes compulsory," he said in his concluding remarks before a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, hearing the hijab row.

"Women cannot be subjugated to any form of dress code and she can't be made to feel less equal and children of a lesser god. Judicial declaration of every woman of a particular religion to wear hijab, would it not violate the dignity? If it is a compulsion of an attire, it is impermissible on this day.

"We propose no ban on hijab, it should be left to the choice of the woman. Right to privacy cannot be enshrined in public. Institutional discipline is paramount. Dignity of women must also be kept in mind in a plural society," Navadagi said.

He also quoted a Bollywood song: "Na muh chupake jiyo, na sar jhuka ke jiyo, gamon ka daur bi aaye toh muskura ke jiyo".

He argued that it is entirely on the petitioner to prove that the practice of hijab is obligatory in nature and compulsorily followed in Islam. However, they have placed 144 Surahs of Quran to the court's query and there is no record on table to show that the custom is obligatory and it is an element of compulsion which compels a member to be expelled from the community, he added.

"Wearing of dress is freedom of speech, as argued by the petitioners as their fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a). However, Article 19 (1) (a) is subject to public order, decency under Article 19 (2). In the present case, the uniform rule is subjected to institutional restriction and it is subjected to institutional discipline not only in schools but also in hospitals, military establishments and others," the AG submitted.

"The rule imposes reasonable restrictions on wearing a headscarf," he said, adding that a uniform is being prescribed till Pre-University as they have "an impregnable mindset".

"There is no restriction on campus to wear a hijab. Only during class hours, in the classrooms, it has been not allowed and anything beyond uniforms, irrespective of any religion, is not allowed," he said.

As Navadgi mentioned the total ban on hijab by France and Turkey in public spaces, Justice Krishna S. Dixit, who is also on the bench, intervened and stated that it depends on the constitutional policy of every country. He then said that he only wanted to bring out that there is no prohibition as such in our country.

Reiterating that hijab is not an essential practice of Islam and can't come under the Constitution's Article 25. (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) he sought to bring to the notice of the court that how this has been upheld by various High Courts and Supreme Court judgments.

Giving clear indications of an early verdict on hijab row, the bench had directed counsel to complete their arguments by this week.

Chief Justice Awasthi asked the Advocate General to complete his submissions at the earliest, and he said that he would complete his arguments on Tuesday.

CJ Awasthi informed all counsel that the bench wants to complete the hearing on the case by this weekend and directed them to keep the arguments brief. "Make positive endeavors to complete within this week only," he said.

Senior advocate R. Venkataramani, appearing for teachers who have been made respondents in the case, maintained that there are no hierarchies of religions between teachers and students. "School environment is more important than a public place. There should be a free mind among students and all minds of children should be in unity for education," he said.

"Whatever may be the assertion, if the state is in collision with public order, morality and health, it will stop. The state comes in through Article 25 (2) in the matters of religion and finance, when it comes to regulation. There is public space and qualified public space. School is a qualified public space," he added.

Referring to the verdict of the South African court allowing the wearing of 'nose ring' to school there, he stated that the court did not make an emphatic statement of religion in the judgment. "Borrowing from foreign judgments could be problematic here, though we cannot close our eyes on them," he held.

Senior advocate S.S. Nagananda, who also appeared for teachers, maintained that there is a fine line of distinction as far as culture and religion are concerned. "It is not possible for Muslims to give five time prayers, similarly, it is not possible for a Brahmin to perform Sandhyavandana three times. This practice of wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice. There are some practices, which are required to perform otherwise, they will have consequences," he said.

Hearing will continue om Wednesday.

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