Prohibiting Hijab in Educational Institutions: A Constitutional Assessment

The hijab ban in Karnataka’s schools and colleges has been a matter of public debate for some time now. The judgment in Resham v. State of Karnataka - where the Karnataka High Court dismissed the writ petitions filed by students against the Government Order and the decisions of educational institutions banning the hijab and other religious clothing/symbols in schools and colleges - has raised further issues concerns that require serious and considered engagement. This research brief has been authored with that purpose in mind by nine academics with expertise in constitutional and administrative law. The research brief covers administrative law issues raised by the Government Order and addresses the fundamental rights violations that emerge from it, namely, the violation of the right to equality and the protection against discrimination (Articles 14 & 15), the right to privacy, dignity and autonomy (Article 21), freedom of expression (Article 19(1)(a)), the right to education (Article 21) and the freedom of religion (Article 25).

This research brief is significant in demonstrating that constitutional issues surrounding the prohibition on the hijab in educational institutions are not limited to discussions on the ‘essential religious practices’ doctrine under the freedom of religion in Article 25. There are a wide range of implications on rights guaranteed in other provisions of the Constitution, that have received very little attention, in general discourse as well as the decision of the Karnataka High Court.