Justice minister slams ex-SC judge for remarks on lack of free speech

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New Delhi, September 15: The Supreme Court said on Thursday that it was not the “interpreter” of the Holy Quran and it has been argued before it in the Karnataka hijab ban case that the courts are not equipped to interpret the religious scriptures.

The Supreme Court, which was hearing arguments on a series of pleas challenging the Karnataka High Court’s verdict refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions in the state, made the observation after a lawyer of one of the petitioners said that the contested judgment is addressing the Islamic and religious perspective.

“The only way is to interpret the Quran. We are not interpreters of the Quran. We cannot do that and that is the argument also that the courts are not equipped to interpret religious scriptures,” he said. said a bench of judges Hemant Gupta. and Sudhanshu Dhulia said.

The high court heard submissions from several lawyers, who appeared for the petitioners and argued on various aspects, including that wearing the hijab was a matter of privacy, dignity and also autonomy, and whether the practice of wearing it was essential or not.

One of the lawyers argued that the way the High Court interpreted the question on Islamic and religious perspective was a “misassessment”.

“The High Court could have said anything, but now we take an independent view in appeals,” the bench argued.

Lawyer Shoeb Alam argued that wearing the hijab is about dignity, privacy and autonomy.

“On the one hand, I have my right to education, the right to go to school, the right to benefit from an inclusive education with others. On the other hand, there is my other right, which is the right to privacy, dignity and autonomy,” he said. .

Alam said the impact of the Government Ordinance (GO) banning Hijab in educational institutions with prescribed uniforms is that “I will give you an education, give me your right to privacy, give up -the. Can the state do it? The answer is a definite ‘no’.”

He said the state cannot come up with a GO asking someone to give up their right to privacy at the school gate.

Lead attorney Kapil Sibal has suggested the case be referred to a Constitutional bench.

“Wearing the hijab is an expression of who you are, who you are, where you come from,” he said.

Sibal said the question is whether the right to wear hijab is available to a woman in a public place, is her right extinguished when she enters a school.

“You can’t destroy me,” he argued, adding that the hijab has become part of personal and cultural tradition.

Lead attorney Colin Gonsalves said the most important question in this case is whether the practice of wearing the hijab is essential to religion or not.

He argued that once the practice is established, it is covered by Section 25 of the Constitution.

Article 25 of the Constitution deals with freedom of conscience and freedom of profession, practice and propagation of religion.

Gonsalves argued that the High Court judgment is a verdict where the perception is that of the “majority community”, where the minority view is perceived “very partially and wrongly”.

“This is essentially a majority judgment. The judgment read as a whole is essentially from a majority viewpoint. It is not consistent with the kind of constitutional independence that a judgment should have,” a- he said, while arguing before the Supreme Court. should quash the judgment for that reason alone.

Gonsalves wondered, “What’s the difference? If you can wear a turban, why can’t you wear a hijab?”.

“The ‘dress up’, ‘undress’ arguments are unfortunate because Muslim girls actually get undressed if the security guard tells them to take off the hijab,” he said.

Hearing the hijab controversy, the Supreme Court recently pointed out whether the right to dress would also mean the right to undress.

Justice Gupta’s remark was in response to an argument that the right to dress is part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

Gonsalves argued that constitutional morality, in the context of minority rights, is the ability to see a problem through the eyes of the minority.

“It has to be cultivated. A majority person may not get the answer quickly, may not quickly understand the intensity of the feelings,” he said.

Lead attorney Meenakshi Arora, representing one of the petitioners, said the second most widely practiced religion in the world is Islam.

She said across the country, people practicing Islam recognize that wearing the hijab is part of their religious and cultural practice.

Initially, lead attorney Dushyant Dave, representing one of the claimants, told the bench he would take a little longer to argue the case.

“This is too serious a matter. I would like to aid your lordships to the best of my abilities,” he said.

Dave said the court should have referred this case to a wider bench.

“My effort is to persuade your lordships why this judgment should be set aside. This matter is far too serious than a uniform,” he said, adding, “this matter requires the very serious attention of the part of your lordships. Your lordships are the guardian of the fundamental rights of citizens.”

Debates on the subject will continue on September 19.

The state government order of February 5, 2022, by which it had prohibited the wearing of clothing that disturbs equality, integrity and public order in schools and colleges, has been referred to the supreme court .

Several appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the High Court’s March 15 verdict that wearing the hijab is not part of the core religious practice that can be protected under Section 25 of the Constitution.

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