Hijab ban case: Supreme Court to hear batch of 23 petitions again on September 7

The petitions have challenged a Karnataka High Court verdict upholding a state government order which empowered development committees of government colleges to ban the wearing of hijab inside campuses.

Soon after the bench assembled, Justice Gupta urged senior advocate Sanjay Hegde to file a complete compilation. Hegde responded to this saying his petition was first filed after HC judgment and has a compilation, according to Live Law.

Asserting the right to wear hijab, Hegde, who appeared for appellants, argued: “Can you tell a grown woman that she will not have control over her own idea of modesty?”

While hearing Hegde’s arguments, Live Law reported, Justice Gupta asked the senior advocate: “It might be a religious practice, but the question is can you take hijab to a school where a uniform is prescribed?”

When the SC turned to the Karnataka government to hear its arguments, Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj maintained: “The only issue is discipline in an institution and they don’t want to follow it.” When the bench asked how hijab was violating the discipline of institution, the ASG said: “They cannot violate the school uniform code in the garb of religious rites being violated.”

According to Bar and Bench, Advocate General P Navadgi appearing for the state government said: “School authorities wrote to us seeking guidance since after hijab students wore bhagwa shawls and which then led to unrest in educational institutions. This is the background of the government order. The state was cautious not to prescribe any uniform but kept it open for every institution to prescribe a uniform. Some institutions have banned Hijab. But the challenge is to government GO. But, here government did not interdict any rights. We only said follow institution rule.”

When Justice Dhuli asked, “Suppose there is a minority institution, there may be hijab?” the Advocate General responded: “Yes, there may be. We have left it to the institution. In Karnataka, there might be institutions of Islamic managements allowing hijab. There is no govt interference.”

When the bench enquired about government-run institutions, the AG said: “The college development committees are entrusted to take a call. some have taken order to not allow hijab like the Udupi college and that is not under challenge here.”

The apex court had on August 29 issued notice to the Karnataka government on a batch of petitions challenging the High Court order that had upheld the state’s ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions. Meanwhile, the bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia had told some of these parties, which have challenged the March 15 ruling of the Karnataka High Court, that it will not allow “forum shopping”.

It may be recalled that a full bench of the Karnataka High Court had on March 15 dismissed a batch of petitions filed by Muslim girls studying in pre-university colleges in Udupi seeking the right to wear the hijab in classrooms. The high court had stated that wearing the hijab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and that the Freedom of Religion under Article 25 of the Constitution is subject to reasonable restriction.

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