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Right to dress includes right to undress too? Judge asks in hijab case hearing

New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia on Wednesday proceeded to hear the appeals of the Karnataka High Court’s decision upholding the prohibition on Muslim female students wearing the hijab in various State schools and colleges.

Justice Hemant Gupta said that Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat’s arguments regarding freedom of expression, including the freedom to dress and the right to wear a headscarf while in uniform, were “taking it to illogical ends.”

Kamat was representing the petitioner in the lead petition, Aishat Shifa v. the State of Karnataka. The right to dress was then followed by a question from Justice Gupta regarding the right to undress.

Senior Advocate Kamat had contended that freedom of dress was also protected by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which grants citizens the right to free speech. He continued by saying that this privilege surely needed to be subject to acceptable limitations. It, the petitioner wasn’t against donning the uniform; rather, she only wanted to do so while donning a headscarf.

Justice Gupta retroted quickly saying, “You can’t take it to illogical ends. Right to dress will include right to undress also?”

“Nobody is undressing in a school. Question is wearing of this additional dress as part of Article 19, can it be restricted?” Senior Advocate Kamat replied.

In the most recent hearing on the subject, which took place on Monday, Justice Gupta questioned whether girls may arrive in “middies, minis, skirts” of their choosing.