Supreme Court to pronounce verdict on Karnataka's hijab ban on Thursday
The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Thursday its verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging the Karnataka government's February 5 order, prohibiting wearing of hijab inside classrooms in pre-university colleges.
According to the apex court website, the bench will pronounce the judgment on October 13. After 10 days of marathon hearings, on September 22, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia reserved their judgment after hearing arguments from the counsel representing the state government, teachers, and the petitioners, who moved the apex court challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state.
During the hearing, the petitioners contended that the high court had wrongly relied upon essential religious practice test for the purpose. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Karnataka government, had alleged that till the year 2021, no girl student was wearing any hijab and uniform being part of essential discipline in schools was being scrupulously followed. However, then a movement started on social media by an organisation called Popular Front of India (PFI) and the movement was designed to create an agitation. Mehta added there were messages on social media to begin wearing hijab and this was not a spontaneous act, instead it was a part of larger conspiracy, and children were acting as advised.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing some of the petitioners, submitted that the argument of PFI was not raised before the high court and it is an argument introduced to create prejudice. The petitioners claimed the Karnataka government order (GO) targeted Muslim women and violated Article 14, and 15 of the Constitution. Therefore, it was irrational, arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing some of the petitioners, while making rejoinder submissions, said for those who are believers, hijab is essential and for those who are not believers, it is not essential. He added that there was no cause to issue guidelines in February this year. The petitioners' counsel vehemently argued that the government order violated their fundamental right to practice religion and cultural rights, which were guaranteed under the Constitution.
Dave submitted that the Department of Education had issued guidelines for academic year 2021-2022, and according to it, uniform is not compulsory. Therefore, Karnataka GO dated February 5 could not supersede these guidelines, he added. A battery of other senior advocates -- Rajeev Dhavan, Kapil Sibal, Colin Gonsalves, Devadatt Kamat, Sanjay Hegde, Salman Khurshid - also represented the petitioners before the apex court. The Karnataka government was represented by Solicitor General Mehta and Advocate General Prabhuling K. Navadgi.