Supreme Court To Consider Setting Up 3-Judge Bench For Karnataka Hijab Ban Case

Earlier, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court gave a split verdict on the petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict upholding Karnataka's hijab ban.

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will consider setting up a three-judge bench for the Karnataka hijab case. 

Earlier, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court gave a split verdict on the petitions challenging the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-run Karnataka's ban on girls and women wearing hijab —an Islamic head covering— in classrooms. 

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandarchud and Justices V Ramasubramanian and JB Pardiwala took note of the submissions of Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora that an interim order was needed keeping in mind the practical examinations scheduled for some classes from February 6 in Karnataka. 

Arora said, "This is the headscarf matter. The girls have practical examinations from February 6, 2023 and this matter needs to be listed for interim directions so that they can appear. The practical examinations will be held in government schools." 

Chandrachud said, "I will examine it. This is a three judge bench matter. We will allot a date."

On October 13, 2022, a two-judge bench delivered opposing verdicts and urged the CJI to constitute an appropriate bench.

While Justice Hemant Gupta, since retired, had dismissed the appeals challenging the March 15 judgement of the Karnataka High Court which had refused to lift the ban, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia held there will be no restriction on the wearing of hijab anywhere in the schools and colleges of the state.

Permitting a community to wear its religious symbols to schools will be an "antithesis to secularism", Gupta had said, while Dhulia insisted that wearing the Muslim headscarf should simply be a "matter of choice".

With the apex court delivering a split verdict, the high court's judgement still holds the field. However, the split verdict held off a permanent resolution of the row over hijab as both judges suggested placing the matter before a larger bench for adjudication.

On March 15, the high court dismissed the petitions filed by a section of Muslim students of the Government Pre-University Girls College in Karnataka's Udupi seeking permission to wear the hijab inside classrooms, ruling it is not a part of the essential religious practice in Islamic faith. Several appeals were filed in the apex court against the verdict.

The Karnataka High Court in its verdict noted that the wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith. It also noted that the prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction constitutionally permissible which the students cannot object to. 

(With PTI inputs)