Bombay High Court Upholds College’s Decision on Hijab Ban Amid Legal Controversy

In a significant judicial decision on Wednesday, the Bombay High Court declined to intervene in a contentious ban on hijabs, burkas, and naqabs imposed by NG Acharya and DK Marathe College of the Chembur Trombay Education Society. This ruling came after a petition challenging the dress code was dismissed, affecting nine female science students in their second and third years.

Justices A.S. Chandurkar and Rajesh Patil, presiding over the case, stated they were not inclined to interfere with the college’s decision. The petitioners argued that the ban infringed upon their fundamental rights, including the right to practice their religion, the right to privacy, and the right to personal choice.

Altaf Khan, representing the students, presented verses from the Quran to substantiate the claim that wearing a hijab is a crucial aspect of Islamic practice. He emphasized that the ban impacted not just their religious practices but also their personal rights to privacy and choice.

Contrarily, the college administration justified the ban as a part of enforcing a uniform dress code, asserting that it was not specifically targeted at the Muslim community. Senior counsel Anil Anturkar, defending the college’s stance, clarified that the dress code was uniformly applied to all students regardless of their religious or caste affiliations.

The petition described the college’s action as “arbitrary, unreasonable, bad-in-law, and perverse,” arguing it was a “colourable exercise of power.” Initially, the students had appealed to the college management and principal to lift the ban, asserting their rights to choice, dignity, and privacy in the classroom environment.

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Further, the affected students sought the support of the chancellor, vice-chancellor of Mumbai University, and the University Grants Commission, urging them to intervene and maintain an educational environment free from discrimination. After receiving no response to their grievances, they proceeded to file the petition in the High Court.

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