Mumbai: A Chembur college on Wednesday told Bombay High Court it is implementing a dress code for students of all communities and not for a particular community.
“If you come to college, leave everything and study. I would be wrong if I only implement it for Muslims,” senior advocate Anil Anturkar for N G Acharya and D K Marathe College told Justices A S Chandurkar and Rajesh Patil.The court heard a petition by nine SYBSc and TYBSc students against the ban on burqa, hijab and naqab in the classroom.
After an undated notice on the college website, on May 1, a message was posted on WhatsApp group regarding dress code for 2024-25 academic year.
The students’ advocate, Altaf Khan, said they were studying in the college wearing hijab and naqab for two to four years and should be allowed to continue. He also said they are wearing it out of choice which emanates from the right to privacy. He argued that the ban violates Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression), Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) as well as a Supreme Court judgment on the right to privacy.
Anturkar said the petitioners must show wearing hijab is an essential religious practice under Islam and a fundamental right to religion.
He said no person can claim a right to wear any dress he or she wants. “Tomorrow somebody who advocates nudism will say ‘I have a right to come nude to the court’. It is easy to say it is my choice. It is equally everybody’s choice to come to an environment of study,’’ he added. Anturkar also said “tomorrow if someone dons the bhagwa (saffron clothes)” or “comes with a gada (mace)”, “I (the college) will object to it”. He cited from a Supreme Court judgment that religious symbols should not be “open to the naked eye”.
“The idea is not that you should not wear but not show it openly unless it is part of fundamental right to religion,’’ he said, giving an example of Sikh turbans.
Anturkar also said all that the college wants is that the dress should be decent, not revealing and should not disclose religion. “The point is will you allow, in a sensitive society like ours, to openly disclose and underline that ‘I belong to this community’?” he asked. Anturkar said the management has provided a separate changing room. He said the idea of the petition is to sensationalise the issue and fan sentiments.
But Khan said the petition is confined to nine students and is not for publicity. He said the issue is primarily about autonomy and bodily integrity and questioned whether the college can call hijab and naqab revealing and indecent dress. Khan said till May 1, the students were attending lectures wearing hijab and naqab. He said if disallowed to continue wearing them, “the consequence will be they will be deprived of education”. The judges will pass the order on June 26.