Devadatt Kamat, Senior Advocate for petitioners in Hijab Ban case: Spotlight this week

Kamat, an alumnus of the ILS Law College Pune, was one of the 37 lawyers to have been designated Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court in 2019. He had recently appeared for Asaram Bapu before the Rajasthan High Court.
Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat
Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat

Spotlight is a series where we shine the, well, spotlight on lawyers who made the news over the past week.

Undoubtedly, the Hijab ban matter has been the most followed case from courtrooms this week, with Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat trying to make a case for the petitioners before the Karnataka High Court.

Kamat, who first presented his case before a single-judge, and subsequently before a full bench headed by the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, made noteworthy arguments invoking the right to privacy and freedom of expression, besides offering a way to deal with the situation.

Who is Devadatt Kamat?

Kamat, an alumnus of the ILS Law College Pune, was one of the 37 lawyers to have been designated Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court in 2019. He served as Additional Advocate General (AAG) of Karnataka from 2015 to 2019 during the Congress government's rule.

He has represented the Karnataka government in a number of high-profile cases before the Supreme Court, besides appearing for elected Congress legislators in the midnight hearing held in 2018, soon after the Assembly elections in the State in May 2018.

In 2019, Kamat resigned form the post of the AAG citing personal reasons. His resignation came a day after the coalition government of Janata Dal (Secular) and the Indian National Congress lost the trust vote in the Assembly. He had represented the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly in the litigation before the Supreme Court, preceding the fall of the government.

More recently, he appeared before the Bombay High Court in a case against the media trial in wake of reportage on the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Why is he in the Spotlight?

During the hearings in the 'Hijab Ban' case that caught the rapt attention of viewers across the country, Kamat broke down his submissions to demonstrate the petitioners' stand on the issue.

Before the matter was referred to a larger Bench, Kamat made the following points;

- Wearing of head scarf (not burqa or veil) is an essential part of Islamic religion;

- Wearing of hijab is protected by right to expression under Article 19(1)(a) and can be restricted only on grounds under Article 19(6);

- Wearing hijab is a facet of the right to privacy recognised as part of Article 21 by Puttaswamy judgment of Supreme Court;

- Government order is outside the scope of the Karnataka Education Rules, and State has no jurisdiction to issue the same.

While he tried to strongly justify his case, Kamat urged the full bench to allow the girls to attend classes with headscarves bearing the same colour as the school uniform.

This is not a case of uniforms. Not a case where students are saying we will wear a different uniform. They want to wear a headscarves of the same colour as the uniform,” he contended.

Interestingly, though Kamat personally felt that children should not cover their heads, he argued that courts have held in the past that they cannot sit in judgment over someone who wants to do it.

After the High Court passed an interim order barring the wearing of religious garments pending the disposal of the case, Kamat had appeared in appeal against this order before the Supreme Court, arguing that the interim order would have far reaching implications not only for Muslims, but for persons of other faiths as well.

Kamat had also recently appeared before the Rajasthan High Court for rape convict Asaram Bapu.

Interestingly, Kamat who is on social media platform Twitter was trolled for arguing the case, something about which he tweeted.

"Now what is this? From being called anti Hindu one day to a Hindutva warrior, the next. A Counsel’s journey is just fascinating," his tweet read referring to the contrasting responses on social media after he argued the Asaram case and the Hijab case.

Read arguments of Devadatt Kamat from February 8 and February 10

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news