Day 9 hearing of Hijab row in supreme court

The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of appeals challenging a Karnataka High Court verdict that effectively upheld the ban on wearing hijab in government schools and colleges [Fathima Bushra vs State of Karnataka].

The Karnataka High Court had on March 15 upheld a Karnataka government order (GO) effectively empowering college development committees of government colleges in the State to ban the wearing of hijab (headscarves) by Muslim girl students in college campus.

The petitioners – Muslim girl students from various colleges in Karnataka – had approached the High Court after they were denied permission to attend classes on account of wearing hijab.

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

– Hijab is not a part of 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);

– The government has the power to pass the GO; no case is made out for its invalidation.

One of the pleas before the top court has argued that the High Court “failed to note 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 has also contended that 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.

During the previous hearing, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia was told by the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta that students challenging the hijab ban never wore hijab to educational institutions until 2021 but suddenly started the practice on advice by someone else.

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