An Indian court has upheld the ban imposed on wearing hijab to schools and colleges in the southern state of Karnataka. The court dismissed as many as five petitions filed by students against the ban.

The court in its ruling said that hijab is not an essential part of Islam, hence, the practice is not protected under the fundamental right to religion.

"...It can hardly be argued that hijab being a matter of attire, can be justifiably treated as fundamental to Islamic faith. It is not that if the alleged practice of wearing hijab is not adhered to, those not wearing hijab become the sinners, Islam loses its glory & ceases to be a religion," read the order as quoted by news website Live Law.

The court further stated that "the practice of wearing hijab may have something to do with culture but certainly not with religion."

"Prescription of uniform is a reasonable restriction to which students cannot object," the court concluded.

The court clarified that the ban is only applicable within the confines of a classroom and the students were free to wear "any apparel of their choice outside the classroom."

The controversy over the wearing of hijab to educational institutions erupted after a college in Karnataka's Udupi denied entry into classrooms to students who were wearing it.

These students then started holding demonstrations against the college authorities inside school premises and were met with opposition from right wing groups and BJP leaders supporting the ban.

The ruling has been criticised by activists, opposition parties and other citizens. Thousands of them took to social media to speak out against the judgment and said that the order denies democratic freedoms to minorities in India.

Heart goes out to all Hijab-wearing women. Cannot even begin to fathom the anxiety. What a shameful day in the history of this country.

— Fatima Khan (@khanthefatima) March 15, 2022

Very disappointed by the verdict of the Karnataka High Court. Regardless of what you may think about the hijab it’s not about an item of clothing, it’s about the right of a woman to choose how she wants to dress. That the court didn’t uphold this basic right is a travesty.

— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 15, 2022

The Karnataka High Court order has now been challenged in the country's Supreme Court by one student called Niba Naaz, who was not amongst the original petitioners.

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