Equality cannot be violated on the basis of religious faith: Judge Hemant Gupta | Latest India News
New Delhi: The state is within its jurisdiction to order that apparent symbols of religious beliefs cannot be transported to a school maintained by public funds, Judge Hemant Gupta said in his judgment Thursday, adding that a “sectarian approach would be l ‘antithesis’ of the renunciation of sectoral diversities. and to cultivate a scientific and secular vision.
Writing the 133-page judgment two days before he was due to retire, Judge Gupta framed 11 questions he felt needed to be answered, and answered all of them in favor of banning the hijab in educational institutions, which he says have the right to deny entry to students who insist on wearing the headscarf or any other significant religious symbol.
“If a particular student feels that she cannot compromise wearing a headscarf or that another student wears an outwardly religious symbol, the school would be justified in not allowing that student, in the best interests of to treat all students the same,” he said.
According to Judge Gupta, if students of one denomination insist on a particular dress, nothing prevents others from wearing their faith and beliefs in schools. “It would not be conducive to the godly atmosphere of the school, where students seek admission to teaching. In fact, the uniform promotes a sense of ‘equality’ among students – instilling a sense of unity, mitigating individual differences,” he added.
Affirming the executive power of the state under the Karnataka Education Act to ensure that students come in the uniform prescribed by the relevant committee, the judge held that “the sectarian approach whereby some students will transmit their religious beliefs to secular state-run schools would be the antithesis of the law’s mandate.
“All students must act and follow school discipline. Among the many steps necessary to ensure uniformity while imparting education, one of them is to wear the uniform dress without any addition or subtraction. Any alteration to the uniform would cease to be the uniform,” he said.
Rejecting the applicants’ argument that the ban infringed the freedom of conscience and religion of Muslim girls, Judge Gupta found that the restriction was intended to promote uniformity and encourage a secular environment in schools, and therefore justifiable under section 14 (equality) of the Constitution.
“The state cannot undermine equality on the basis of religious faith…Secularism is therefore more than a passive attitude of religious tolerance. It is a positive concept of equal treatment of all religions. A person’s faith or belief is irrelevant from the standpoint of the state. For the state, all are equal and all have the right to be treated the same,” he stressed.
Avoiding determining whether the practice of wearing the hijab is an essential religious practice or not, Justice Gupta pointed out that it is undoubtedly an individual’s creed or faith.
“Religious belief cannot be transmitted to a secular school maintained by public funds. It is open for students to wear their faith in a school that allows them to wear the hijab or any other mark, maybe the tilak, which can be identified with a person with a particular religious belief, but the state is within its jurisdiction to order that apparent symbols of religious beliefs may not be transported to the school maintained by the state with state funds,” he said.
On the aspect of denial of the right to education, Justice Gupta said the state cannot be blamed when female students, “by choice”, do not attend schools since the hijab was banned.
“If they choose not to attend class because of the uniform they have been prescribed, it is a voluntary act on the part of these students… The student is not expected to wear a condition unless she is allowed to come to a secular school wearing a headscarf, she would not go to school.The decision is up to the student and not the school when the student chooses not to not respecting the uniform rules… A student cannot therefore claim the right to wear a headscarf in a secular school in its own right,” argued the judge.
Students, Justice Gupta said, have many years ahead of them where they can pursue their religious faith, but the government decree mandating the wearing of uniforms is beyond reproach since the object is in accordance with the principles of the Constitution.
“Schools need to prepare students for their future plans in life. Discipline is one of the attributes students learn in schools. Disregard for school rules would in fact be the antithesis of discipline which cannot be accepted from students who have not yet reached adulthood,” he said.
Calling the uniform an equalizer of inequality, Justice Gupta asserted that prescribing a uniform for children at an impressionable age is not only important but has a salutary effect on the mental development of the child so that he grows up in “the ‘unit environment’.