Hijab Case: Supreme Court Reserves Verdict on Pleas Against Karnataka HC Order
A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia heard several parties in the matter over the last 10 days.
The Supreme Court on Thursday, 22 September, reserved its verdict in a batch of appeals which challenge the Karnataka High Court judgment upholding a government order that empowered government colleges in the state to ban Muslim girl students from wearing the hijab on campus.
A bench comprised of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia completed hearing several parties in the matter over the course of last 10 days.
“We have heard you all. Now our homework starts. Thank you very much.”Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia
The petitioners in the case were Muslim girl students from various Karnataka colleges who had approached the high court after they were denied permission to attend classes because they wore a hijab.
The Karnataka High Court, on 15 March, had upheld the Karnataka government’s order, following which the students approached the apex court.
The Karnataka HC Judgment
The three-judge bench in the Karnataka High Court, comprised of then Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi, had held that the hijab is not an essential practice of Islam.
The bench added that the requirement of uniform is a reasonable restriction on freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a).
Moreover, the court concluded that the Karnataka Government has the power to pass the GO, and said that there was no case made out for its invalidation.
Arguments in Supreme Court
The petitioners contended that this was a case of the state failing to provide reasonable accommodation to students exercising their rights under Articles 19 and 21.
They further underscored that only if someone’s clothing disrupts public order, can it be restricted, and added that it was the state’s responsibility to ensure the creation of an atmosphere where students can exercise their fundamental rights.
However, the state government held that the order was “religion-neutral” and did not target any one community.
The state also alleged that the Muslim students challenging the hijab ban never wore hijab to educational institutions until 2021, but started the practice after a social media agitation was started by the Popular Front of India.
The female students had protested the hijab ban, first imposed by individual institutions and then through a government order, and had said that it was a component of their essential religious practice.
They also said that their freedom to dress that way was constitutionally validated as the freedom of conscience, and that such bans on their religious attire were hostile discrimination.
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