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Mumbai college tells Bombay HC: Hijab ban part of dress code, not against Muslims

Updated on: 19 June,2024 04:51 PM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

Last week, nine female students from Mumbai college moved Bombay HC over a rule that prohibited hijab, niqab, burka, stokes, hats & any type of emblem.

Mumbai college tells Bombay HC: Hijab ban part of dress code, not against Muslims

Bombay High Court/ File Photo

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Mumbai college tells Bombay HC: Hijab ban part of dress code, not against Muslims

A Mumbai college told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that the prohibition on hijab, niqab, and burka on its campus was intended to establish a uniform dress code and not to target the Muslim community. 

According to a PTI report, nine female students from Chembur Trombay Education Society's NG Acharya and DK Maratha College filed a complaint with the High Court last week over a clothing rule that prohibited hijab, niqab, burka, stokes, hats, and any type of emblem. According to reports, the petitioners, who are second and third-year degree students, said in their plea that the rule violated their fundamental right to practise religion, privacy, and freedom of choice.

The petitioners stated that the college's action was "arbitrary, unreasonable, bad in law, and perverse".

According to the report, a division bench of Justices AS Chandurkar and Rajesh Patil questioned the petitioners' lawyers on Wednesday about whose religious authority states wearing a hijab is a fundamental element of Islam, as well as whether the Mumbai college management could impose such a prohibition.

The Bombay HC, per the PTI report, after hearing arguments from both sides said it would pass an order on June 26. 

The petitioners' lawyer, Advocate Altaf Khan, invoked Quranic scriptures to bolster their case, the PTI report stated. Khan said that the petitioners were relying on their "right to choice and privacy" besides their right to practice their faith. 

Meanwhile, senior counsel Anil Anturkar, appearing for the Mumbai college, said that the dress code was for all students irrespective of their caste and religion. 

Anturkar, per the PTI report, told Bombay HC, "This is not an order against Muslims alone. This dress code restriction is for all religions. This is so that students need not openly roam around disclosing their religion. People come to college to study. Let the students do that and focus only on that and leave everything else outside."

Anturkar, representing the Mumbai college, further stated that wearing hijab, niqab or burka is not an essential part of the practice of Islam and added, "If tomorrow a student comes dressed in full 'bhagwa' (saffron) clothing, the college will oppose that too. Why is it necessary to openly disclose one's religion or caste? Will a Brahmin roam around with his sacred thread outside his clothes?"

The counsel for the Mumbai college further pointed out that the management was providing a room to students where they could change out of hijabs before entering classrooms. 

Meanwhile, the lawyer for petitioners argued why the students wearing hijab, niqab and burka was not an issue until now. "Now what happened suddenly? Why was this ban imposed now? The dress code directive says wear decent clothes. So is the college management saying that hijab, niqab and burka are indecent clothing or revealing (clothing)?" he asked.

The petition contended that the Mumbai college's instruction was merely an attempt to exert power.

Prior to seeking legal recourse, the petitioners reached out to the chancellor and vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai, as well as the University Grants Commission (UGC), requesting their intervention to uphold the principle of providing education to all citizens without bias. Unfortunately, they did not receive any response.

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