Supreme Court will decide whether to appoint a three-judge panel to examine hijab petitions.
On Wednesday, a group of female students from Karnataka petitioned the Supreme Court to order government schools in the state to let them to take exams while wearing the hijab.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud stated that he would “take a call” shortly regarding the formation of a three-judge panel to hear the case in light of the last bench’s split verdict in October 2022.
The students filed a similar motion on January 23, but the three-judge bench has not yet been notified.
Also see: Karnataka students petition the Supreme Court for wearing hijabs to examinations
Advocate Shadan Farasat informed the CJI on Wednesday that the examinations will begin on March 9 and that girls will not be permitted inside the examination centres due to the state government’s restriction on the hijab at state-run institutions.
“Due to the restrictions, they have already relocated to private universities, although the exams will be held in official institutions. Due to the prohibition, some of them have already lost an entire year. Currently, all we ask is that they be permitted to take tests,” Farasat stated.
The CJI said that he will investigate the case and consider assembling a suitable bench to hear the application.
In October 2022, the highest court of Karnataka issued a split decision regarding the ban on wearing the hijab in educational institutions, with one judge affirming that the state government is authorised to enforce a uniform in schools and the other stating that the hijab is a matter of choice that the state cannot stifle.
In his ruling, Judge Hemant Gupta dismissed all appeals filed against the Karnataka high court’s March ruling that the headscarf is not obligatory for Muslim women and that the Karnataka government has the authority to implement the uniform mandate.
However, at that time, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia disagreed with the senior judge on the bench and granted all appeals. Justice Dhulia stated, as he read the operative portion of his opinion, that a Muslim girl’s decision to wear the hijab is a matter of personal choice that cannot be restricted. Justice Dhulia stated that concerns over the education of a girl child weighed the most on his mind, and that the ban on the hijab would unquestionably impede efforts to improve her life.
Also see: Karnataka hijab ban: Girls petition the Supreme Court for permission to sit exams while wearing a headscarf
In light of the dissenting opinions, the Chief Justice of India has been tasked with forming a suitable bench.
About two dozen attorneys argued a range of concerns on behalf of female students, Islamic bodies, rights groups, lawyers, and campaigners during last year’s protracted session.
In their arguments against the Karnataka high court’s decision to uphold the ban, the petitioners cited the right to exercise religion, the freedom to dress as a matter of expression and identity, the right to access education, and the alleged unconstitutionality of the state’s mandate. The government of Karnataka responded to the petitioners by claiming throughout the proceedings that its circular to impose the uniform was religion-neutral and aimed solely at establishing uniformity and discipline in the state’s educational institutions.