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Will right to dress include right to undress also, asks SC

If the right to freedom of expression included ‘freedom to dress’, would it include the ‘right to undress’, Justice Hemant Gupta asked petitioners in the hijab case on Wednesday. The bench headed by the judge asked if the right to dress could be stretched to ‘illogical ends’.

Appearing on behalf of a clutch of petitioners who challenged the ruling of the Karnataka high court that hijab was not an essential practice in Islam and students should adhere to uniforms prescribed by educational institutions, senior advocate Devadatt Kamat contended that the Karnataka government’s order was ‘not innocuous’, as contended by the state. He argued that the order violated the fundamental rights under Articles 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.

The right to freedom of expression included the freedom to dress though they had to be reasonable restrictions on the right, he said. Kamat contended that the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution included dress.

To this, Justice Hemant Gupta retorted “you cannot take it to illogical ends. Right to dress will include the right to undress also?” Kamat responded: “Nobody is undressing in a school. The question is wearing of this additional dress as part of Article 19, can it be restricted?”

Kamat said India practised “positive secularism” and hence, the government must exercise “reasonable accommodation” and allow the petitioners to wear headscarf in addition to the uniform.

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