Will protect fundamental rights of citizens, hear plea at right time: SC

Will protect fundamental rights of citizens, hear plea at right time: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday said it would protect the Constitutional rights of every citizen and take up at an appropriate time the pleas challenging a direction of the Karnataka High Court asking students not to wear any religious clothing in educational institutions, and emphasised that these issues should not spread at national level.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana was told by senior advocate Devdutt Kamat, appearing for the students, that the high court order has led to the "suspension of fundamental right to practice religion under Article 25 of the Constitution" and the plea be listed for hearing on Monday.

Refusing to list the plea on February 14 as sought by Kamat, the bench, also comprising justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, referred to the ongoing hearing of the case in the high court and said it will protect the fundamental right of every citizen and take up the matter at an appropriate time.

At the outset, Kamat said, I am mentioning a fresh SLP against an interim order passed yesterday in the hijab' matter by the high court. I would say it is rather strange that the high court says that none of the students should disclose any religious identity when they go to school and college. It has far reaching implications not only for Muslim community but also for other faiths.

He referred to Sikhs wearing turbans and said the high court, by an interim order, has directed all the students that they should go to educational institutions without disclosing religious identity.

Our respectful submissions are that this amounts to complete suspension of Article 25 (freedom to practice and propagate religion) as far as our clients are concerned. So kindly hear us on the interim arrangement, Kamat said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Karnataka government, said the high court order has not even come out and this should have been pointed out.

The high court is already hearing this on an urgent basis. We do not know what the order is...Wait. Let us see, the bench said.

Meanwhile, the holiday announced to universities belonging to the Department of Higher Education and colleges under the Department of Collegiate and Technical Education (DCTE), in the wake of the Hijab row, has been extended till February 16.

However, examinations will be held as scheduled and it has been directed to conduct online classes, Karnataka Higher Education Minister C N Ashwath Narayan said in a statement.

Noting that in view of the Hijab row, DCTE had declared the closure of institutions from February 9 to February 11, Narayan said, now as a precautionary measure it has been extended.

This closure is applicable for government, aided, unaided degree colleges, diploma, and engineering colleges, he added.

The government on Thursday had decided to resume classes for high school students up to class 10 from February 14, and for Pre-University and Degree Colleges thereafter.

The Karnataka High Court, in its interim order pending consideration of all petitions related to the Hijab row, had earlier requested the state government to reopen educational institutions and restrained all the students from wearing saffron shawls, scarves, Hijab and any religious flag within the classroom.

As protests for and against the hijab intensified in different parts of Karnataka and turned violent in some places, the government declared a holiday for all high schools and colleges in the state for three days, from February 9.

Earlier in the day, ahead of the reopening of schools, the state government had issued a series of directions to district administrations, aimed at maintaining peace and that the High Court order is not violated.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai held a meeting with some Ministers, Deputy Commissioners (DCs), Superintendent of Police (SPs), Deputy Director of Public Instruction (DDPIs) and CEOs of Zilla Panchayats of all districts, via video conferencing, to review the ground situation.

"From Monday, high school classes up to class 10 will resume across the state, directions have been issued to see to it that no untoward incident takes place. In sensitive areas, DCs and SPs have to visit campuses and instruct the authorities and teaching staff there to see to it that no untoward incidents take place," Jnanendra told reporters after the meeting.

DCs, SPs and DDPIs have been asked to keep constant contact with principals, teachers, management of educational institutions and parents.

"Action should be taken against the guilty, peace meetings should be held and the High Court order should be followed literally. Authorities should not budge to any pressure and even small incidents should be considered seriously," he added.

Meanwhile, a police flag march was held in Udupi, ahead of the reopening of schools on Monday.

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