Amid the uproar over the restriction on Muslim girl students from wearing hijab (headscarves) to colleges in Karnataka, the State government has told the Karnataka High Court that it is not interfering with religious beliefs, and that educational institutions are not places to profess any particular religion [Ayesha Hajeera Almas v. Chief Secretary]..In its statement of objections, the State took a clear stand that it was not in favour of any particular student or group, nor was it interested in interfering with religious beliefs. However, the government’s only concern remained maintenance of uniformity, which it claimed was indispensable to an educational institution.“The very purpose of uniform and dress code is to maintain equality among the students and maintain dignity, decorum and discipline in the institution.”In this light, it was stressed that educational institutions are not a place to profess or preach any particular religion or caste..The affidavit also stated that educational institutions were given discretionary powers under the Education Act and Rules to decide on their own uniforms. Further, the petitioners in the case and their parents were aware of the uniform in the colleges before admission.“By taking admission to the institution, they have submitted themselves to the uniform and educational system being imparted. Furthermore, the petitioners have voluntarily given their undertaking that they will abide by the dress code along with the disciple of the institution.”.The respondents also pointed out that they were receiving various requests and complaints regarding uniforms on the basis of the petitioners’ claim. It was submitted that other students were also seeking their own dress code. Thus, it was urged that since the issue was sensitive, only an expert committee could decide such cases..In fact, while drawing attention to a decision of the apex court, it was asserted that as per well settled law, in case of a conflict between personal and larger interest, the issue of personal interest must yield.“Prescribing a uniform also flows from the fundamental duty caste on the State under Article 14 and 46 of the Constitution,” read the affidavit in defence of the action under challenge..It was also the government's contention that the petitioners had no enforceable rights to invoke the Court’s writ jurisdiction. To buttress this argument, the judgment in Shayaro Bano v Union of India was relied on. In this case it was held it would be difficult to devise a definition of religion which would be regarded as applicable to all religions or matters of religious practices..With these submissions, the State prayed that the Court dismiss the petition and reject the prayers..The petitions in this case contended that the freedom of conscience and the right to religion are both guaranteed by the Constitution. Specifically on the aspect of hijab, the plea claimed that it is an essential part of Islam and enjoys protection under Article 25(1) of the Constitution which confers the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion..Read details on petitions here and here.Also, the live updates from Karnataka High Court on Hijab row can be read here.