Thursday, June 8, 2023

Hijab Row: Supreme Court refuses to adjourn the case after urgent listing

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A notice was issued to the State of Karnataka by the Supreme Court in a batch of appeals that challenged the verdict of Karnataka High Court which upheld the ban on wearing hijab in government schools and colleges.

The bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia did not approve of the petitioners’ request for adjournment in the case, while the matter was taken up for hearing.

The bench said, “We will not permit forum shopping. You wanted urgent listing and now you want hearing adjourned. We will not allow this.”

The court also issued a notice and listed the case for hearing on September 5.

On March 15, the Karnataka High Court had upheld a Government Order (GO), effectively empowering the college development committees of government colleges in the state to ban wearing of hijab (headscarves) by Muslim girl students in college campus.

The petitioners in the case are Muslim girl students of Karnataka colleges, who had approached the High Court after they were denied permission to attend classes on account of wearing hijab over the uniform.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S Dixit and JM Khazi held that:

  • Islam does not consider Hijab as an essential religious practices of Islam;
  • Requirement of uniform is a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a);
  • No case can be made for the invalidation of the power of Government to pass a Government order.
    The top court at present has three appeals pending against the Karnataka High Court verdict, which includes one by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

A plea was put before the top court arguing that the High Court has miserably failed in observing an noting that the right to wear a Hijab comes under the ambit of ‘expression’ and is thus protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.”

It also stated about the failing of the High Court failed to take note of the fact that the right to wear Hijab comes under the ambit of the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The plea also adds that with regard to uniform, the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, and the Rules made under it provide no mandatory uniform to be worn by students.

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