Freedom of religion and attireDate: 07 February 2022 Tags: Judiciary & Judgments
Several girl students were prevented from attending college classes for wearing hijab in Karnataka’s Udupi district.
Imposition of dress code in colleges that can interfere with religious rights of students has complicated the issue.
The main questioning arising during the episode is whether the right to wear a hijab is constitutionally protected.
Religious freedom in constitution
Freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion is granted under Article 25(1) of the constitution.
However, the state has powers to restrict the right on grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
The essential religious practice test
To determine what all practices are essential for religion, the Supreme Court has devised a test known as ‘essential religious practice test’.
It will help courts decide which practices to be constitutionally protected and what not. It originated during the ‘Shirur Mutt case’ in 1954.
Firstly, the essential aspects of the religion are determined with reference to the doctrines of that religion itself.
It has been criticized by legal experts as it pushes the court to delve into theological spaces.
Legal experts have asked the courts to use the test to prohibit religious practices for public order rather than determine its essentiality in religion.
Rulings on hijabs
The Kerala High court in 2015 had asked CBSE to conduct additional check for students who intended to wear a dress that was contrary to the dress code for appearing for exam.
In Fathima Tasneem v State of Kerala (2018), the collective rights of an institution were given primacy over individual rights of the petitioner.
The court said that petitioners cannot seek imposition of their individual right as against the larger right of the institution.