Kolkata: Former Supreme Court Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly has said that the hijab ban debate going on in the Supreme Court is unnecessary and that the ban on hijab in educational institutions is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The former SC judge was commenting on the ongoing hijab ban controversy, especially the ban in educational institutions, while he was addressing a function in Kolkata recently.
Without mincing words, he said, ”India is a secular country. Here, the Constitution provides equal rights to people of all religions and languages. However, in recent times, some evil forces are trying to destroy the cultural atmosphere of the country.”
Recently, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court has given a split verdict on the hijab ban order by the Karnataka High Court, which has directly impacted the school education of scores of Muslim schoolgirls in Karnataka.
In the two-judge bench, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia of the apex court set aside the hijab ban by the Karnataka HC, while Justice Hemant Gupta agreed with the decision and dismissed 26 appeals filed against the high court judgment.
Justice Dhulia said in his judgment: By asking the girls to take off their hijab before they enter the school gates, is first an invasion of their privacy, then it is an attack on their dignity, and then ultimately it is a denial to them of secular education. These are clearly violative of Article 19(1)(a), Article 21 and Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India.
Indeed, Ganguly asserted that he agrees with the judgment of Sudhanshu Dhulia that the hijab ban is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Justice Ganguly said, ”This is an unnecessary ban which is being debated in the Supreme Court. I strongly support the views which have been expressed by Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia that the ban is undemocratic and unconstitutional.”
On October 16, the Calcutta Khilafat Committee organised a student felicitation event, in which, along with Ganguly, other dignitaries were also present, including Dr Sashi Panja, Minister of Women and Child Development in West Bengal, Minority Affairs Minister Md Ghulam Rabbani, minister Javed Ahmed Khan, ex-Member of Parliament, Ahmed Hasan, and Dr NK Chakraborty, Vice-Chancellor of NUJS.
The former justice discussed various aspects of education in his insightful and strong speech. He said, ”People should be aware of society’s moral values, patriotism and democracy.”
Ganguly, who has been the chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, compared the ban on hijab as similar to taking away the constitutional rights of Indian citizens. He categorically stated, ”The Constitution of the country has given the right of religion and culture to everyone, but some people are trying to take it away. No State can exist without the expression to preserve the constitutional principles. Everybody must have noted that when a government comes to power, the State has to take an oath to obey the principles of the Constitution, The oath of honesty and discharging public duty. And in a manner which inspires confidence in the minds of everybody, not only those who are represented in your party but even those who are opposite of you, who are criticizing you, because it’s a republic.”
The former judge, who has been seen on the streets joining peaceful demonstrations and marching for the assertion of the fundamental rights of Indian citizens, said he will always raise his voice in support of the right to personal liberty. ”I have participated in a march in support of the person’s right to wear a hijab. I believe that it is my duty as a former judge to uphold the principles of the Constitution.”
The judge also recalled his teaching days. ”I started my career as a school teacher and I believe that teaching is the most honoured position. Unless you have good teachers, you can’t build a nation. You can object and rise against the injustice that is the essence of education.”
”You must preserve the character of the republic. Everybody has a right to rethink and express their views freely. These are the tenets our Constitution preaches,” he told the students, and others present at the event.