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Karnataka hijab ban: SC to deliver judgement on the matter today

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The Supreme Court (SC) will today pronounce its verdict 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.

According to the apex court’s cause list, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia will deliver the judgement in the matter on Thursday.

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

The arguments in the matter went on for 10 days in which 21 lawyers from the petitioners’ side and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi argued for the respondents.

Earlier on 15 March, the Karnataka HC 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.

Various petitioners approached the apex court challenging the Karnataka HC order upholding the Karnataka government’s order which directs strict enforcement of schools and colleges’ uniform rules.

One of the appeals in the top court has alleged “step-motherly behaviour of government authorities which has prevented students from practicing their faith and resulted in an unwanted law and order situation”.

The appeal said the High Court in its impugned order “had vehemently failed to apply its mind and was unable to understand the gravity of the situation as well as the core aspect of the Essential Religious Practices enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India”.

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.

The Hijab row had erupted in January this year when the Government PU College in Udupi allegedly barred six girls wearing the hijab from entering. Following this, the girls sat in protest outside college over being denied entry.

After this, boys of several colleges in Udupi started attending classes wearing saffron scarves. This protest spread to other parts of the state as well leading to protests and agitations in several places in Karnataka. As a result, the Karnataka government said that all students must adhere to the uniform and banned both hijab and saffron scarves till an expert committee decided on the issue.

On February 5, the pre-University education board released a circular stating that the students could only wear the uniform approved by the school administration and no other religious attire would be allowed in colleges.

(With inputs from agencies) 

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