The Karnataka government has agreed to offer ‘Y’ category security cover to three judges, including Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, who were part of the panel that maintained the prohibition on wearing hijab in classrooms in colleges with a dress code.
While speaking to the media on Sunday, Chief Minister Basvaraj Bommai announced the decision. He stated that this was in response to the police filing a First Information Report after a video went viral on social media containing life-threatening remarks directed at the judges who were part of the bench that rendered the judgement.
On March 19, the FIR was filed as Crime No. 18/2022 at the Vidhana Soudha police station in Bengaluru, based on a complaint filed by Advocate Sudha Katwa. The case was filed under Indian Penal Code sections 506 (1), 505 (1) (C), 505 (1) (b), and 153A, 109, 504, 505 (2).
According to the plaintiff, she got a video message in Tamil language with shocking threats directed towards the judges. The speaker in the video message was seen threatening the judges in the hijab case after mentioning the murder of an Additional District Judge in Jharkhand during his morning walk, according to the complaint, and warned that the judges in the hijab case will be targeted.
The complaint was depressing: “The video message appears to have originated in Tamil Nadu (possibly Madurai district), where the speaker mentions the death of a judge in Jharkhadn in an open public meeting. The speaker issues a similar warning to the Chief Justice of Karnataka, claiming that everyone knows where he goes for a walk.”
In addition, according to the lawsuit, the speaker in the video addresses the Chief Justice in a distinct language and openly challenges the filing of any action against him. He also uses obscene words when addressing judicial decisions.
According to the complaint, the video message has an impact on the administration of justice and is a direct threat to the judiciary’s freedom, fairness, openness, and independence. “Not only does the foregoing hateful speech incite animosity among society’s members, but it also directly targets the judicial and legal community.”
On March 15, a three-judge panel led by Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit, and Justice JM Khazi ruled that wearing the hijab is not an essential religious practise in the Islamic religion and so is not protected under Article 25 of the Constitution.
A Full Bench of the High Court further found that the state’s prescription of school uniform is a legitimate restriction of students’ rights under Article 25, and so the Karnataka government’s February 5 Government Order is not infringing on their rights.