Hijab Row: SC Directs Karnataka Govt To File Response To Petitions On Ban

The Karnataka High Court had held that wearing of hijab is not a part of essential religious practice that should be protected under Article 25 of the constitution in March this year.
The SC has directed the Karnataka government to file its response to pleas seeking lifting ban on hijab
The SC has directed the Karnataka government to file its response to pleas seeking lifting ban on hijab

The Supreme Court of India on Monday asked the Karnataka government to submit its response to petitions against the High Court’s refusal to lift a ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions.

The top court set the next hearing in the matter on September 5, though, it expressed displeasure over some petitioners seeking adjournment after first asking for an urgent hearing.

The bench comprising of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia said, “We won't allow forum shopping. You only wanted urgent hearing. What changed now?”

The Karnataka High Court had held that wearing of hijab is not a part of essential religious practice that should be protected under Article 25 of the constitution in March this year. It had dismissed petitions by a section of Muslim students from Government Pre-University Girls College in Udupi, who had sought to wear the hijab inside classroom.

After that, several individuals and organizations had approached the SC against the verdict. The pleas were mentioned before a bench headed by the then Chief Justice N V Ramana for urgent hearing on several occasions, but it had not been listed for hearing.

The matter was finally taken up for hearing and listed in the last week of Justice Ramana’s tenure. It came up for hearing on the first working day since the oath taking of CJI UU Lalit.

One of the appeals read, “Step-motherly behaviour of government authorities... prevented students from practising their faith and resulted in an unwanted law and order situation.”

It read, “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.”

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“Wearing of hijab or headscarf is a practice that is essential to the practice of Islam,” the appeal further added.

It may be noted that row over wearing hijab began in January when six female students of Government PU College in Udupi were barred from entering the campus for wearing hijab. The institute cited a uniform code for not allowing them to enter.

The students had then held a sit-in protest at the college gate. This led to a counter from a section of Hindu students in several colleges in Udupi, who started wearing saffron scarves to classes.

The issue spread like wildfire to other parts of the state soon, with a number of Muslim groups viewing it as a violation of their freedom.

The government in Karnataka stepped in to direct all students to “adhere to the uniform code”, effectively banning the use of both hijab and saffron scarves.

The education board released a circular on February 5 which said that the students can only wear uniform approved by the institute and no other religious attire will be allowed in educational institutions.

The order held that in case a uniform is not prescribed by management committees, students should wear clothes that "go well with the idea of equality and unity, and do not disturb the social order".

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