The matter was heard by Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhansu Dhulia, who took a stern view of the petitioners’ request for adjournment of the matter, stating:
"We will not permit forum shopping. You wanted urgent listing and now you want hearing adjourned. We will not allow this.”
One of the counsels for the petitioners, however, told the court that “(other) counsels are coming from across India…some are in Karnataka.”
Meanwhile, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta chimed in: “I have the number of times they sought mentioning, at least six.”
But the counsel for the petitioners pointed out that they had sought an urgent hearing during all those other times because exams in the state were starting then (and hijab-wearing girls in Karnataka were being expected to choose between wearing the hijab or writing exams).
The Hijab Ban
In March this year, the Karnataka High Court upheld the state government's ban on Muslim students wearing hijabs in schools and colleges. The ban was packaged as a general rule on following uniforms without wearing religious garb.
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 freedom of conscience and that such bans on their religious attire were hostile discrimination.
What Had the High Court Said?
The Karnataka High Court, however, decided it was "of the considered opinion that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith..."
"The prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction that is constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to," the court said.
The Petitions That Followed
Immediately after the ruling, a series of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court order, but the apex court decided it did not need to hear them on an urgent basis.
The matter was finally heard on 29 August, when the court issued notice, expressed disapproval of lawyers’ request for adjournment, and listed the matter for further hearing on Monday, 5 September.
Find more details on the background of the case and the issues that the apex court now needs to examine here.
(With inputs from Live Law and Bar and Bench.)