Hijab may promote diversity, make kids culturally sensitive: Indian Supreme Court

Allowing girl students to wear hijab to educational institutions may also be viewed as an opportunity for children at an impressionable age to learn about diversity that India is all about, the Supreme Court observed on Wednesday as it continued hearing the Karnataka hijab ban cases.

According to a bench of justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia, while uniformity in dress code could be the prime argument of the Karnataka government , it cannot be ignored that allowing diversity in a classroom can make children culturally sensitive.

“One can also say, this is an opportunity of being exposed to diversity. We have students from all cultures, religions...look at diversity of the country, be culturally sensitive towards them,” remarked the bench, as it heard lawyers on behalf of the state government and some teachers from Karnataka supporting the hijab ban.

When senior advocate R Venkataramani, appearing for a teacher, argued that he would rather want a school free from all distractions of this kind, the court replied that it all depends on the perspective.

“How will you prepare the students when they go out of the schools? When they face the world, they will face the great diversity of the country...diversity in culture, diversity in dress, diversity in cuisine. So, this can also be an opportunity to prepare them. It can be an opportunity to inculcate some values. That can also be a perspective,” it observed.

During the proceedings, the court also asked the law officers representing the Karnataka government to explain on what basis hijab was sought to be pitched as a reasonable restriction to fundamental right to practice religion.

“There are three grounds, public order, morality and health. On what ground are you restricting [hijab]? Under which head are you restricting it? Is it affecting public order, or someone’s health or morality?” it asked Karnataka advocate general Prabhuling K Navadgi.