Karnataka hijab ban: SC delivers split verdict, matter referred to CJI

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on 13 October gave a split verdict on on a batch of petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court’s judgement refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state.

While, Justice Hemant Gupta’s verdict upheld the hijab ban verdict of Karnataka High Court, Justice Dhulia noted that hijab is a matter of choice. Since the verdict is spilt, the Chief Justice will assign the case to a larger bench in due course of time. Justice Gupta said, “Whether college management can take a call on uniform of students and if wearing of hijab and restricting it is violative of Article 25. Whether rights under Article 19 and Article 25 are mutually exclusive. Whether govt order infringes upon the fundamental right. Can a student exert her fundamental right, is wearing right a part of essential religious practice under Islam, whether government order serves the purpose of access of education? the answer according to me is against the appellant. I dismiss the appeal.” While setting aside the Karnataka High Court order, Justice Dhulia said, “Venturing into ERP was not needed and the court took wrong way. It was just a question of choice. I have held the ratio in Bijoy Emmanuel squarely covers the case. One thing which was topmost for me was the education of girl child. A girl child in areas does household work and chores before going to school and are we making her life any better by doing this. I have respectfully differed. this was a case only dealing with Article 19, and 25.”

Earlier, the SC bench had reserved its verdict on the pleas on September 22 after hearing arguments in the matter for 10 days.

On March 15, the high court had dismissed the petitions filed by a section of Muslim students of the Government Pre-University Girls College in Karnataka’s Udupi seeking permission to wear the hijab inside classrooms, ruling it is not a part of the essential religious practice in Islamic faith.

During the arguments in the apex court, a number of counsel appearing for the petitioners had insisted that preventing Muslim girls from wearing the hijab to the classroom will put their education in jeopardy as they might stop attending classes.

Counsel for the petitioners had argued on various aspects, including on the state government’s February 5, 2022 order which banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public order in schools and colleges.

Some advocates had also argued that the matter be referred to a five-judge constitution bench.

On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the state had argued that the Karnataka government order that kicked up a row over hijab was “religion neutral”.

Insisting that the agitation in support of wearing hijab in educational institutions was not a “spontaneous act” by a few individuals, the state’s counsel had argued in the apex court that the government would have been “guilty of dereliction of constitutional duty” if it had not acted the way it did.

The state government’s order of February 5, 2022 was challenged by some Muslim girls in the high court.

Several pleas have been filed in the apex court challenging the high court verdict.

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