From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Secularism in India
Mains level : Hijab Row
India believes in ‘positive secularism’ based on tolerance of all religious faiths and not ‘negative secularism’ followed in countries like France which holds that display of religion in public is offensive, said a student from Karnataka who has challenged the ban on wearing hijab to school.
What is Positive Secularism?
- Secularism is most commonly defined as the separation of religion from civic affairs and the state.
- It may be broadened to a similar position seeking to remove or to minimize the role of religion in any public sphere.
- Positive secularism is where the state plays an enabler role in the exercise of fundamental rights and the religious freedoms of all communities.
What did the petitioner argue?
- The petitioner replied that the Constitution itself says that all religions have to be treated with equal respect.
- It said that the Supreme Court has also held in the Aruna Roy Judgment that there should be no discrimination on the ground of any religion.
- It went on to say that the State should show ‘reasonable accommodation’ of Muslim students’ right to wear hijab to school as a part of her right to expression, religion and dignity.
Circumstances where hijab can be prohibited in school
The State can only restrict her right in three circumstances, the petition highlighted.
- One, to protect public order, morality and health.
- Two, to protect another fundamental right.
- Three, if such a restriction is authorised by a law made to regulate or restrict any economic, financial, political or secular activity which may be associated with religious practice or to provide for social welfare and reform.
What was the judgment announced by Karnataka HC?
- The HC held that wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and is not, therefore, protected under by the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.
- The court said it was a reasonable restriction that was constitutionally permissible.
- The Bench also upheld the legality of the order prescribing guidelines for uniforms in schools and pre-university colleges under the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983.
- The court said that school uniform will cease to be a uniform if hijab is also allowed.