Image Courtesy: dnaindia.com
On Monday, August 29, the Supreme Court of India heard a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the ban on wearing hijabs (traditional Islmaic headscarves) in educational institutions in Karnataka, reported LiveLaw.
Several attempts were made over the last three months by the different lawyers to seek urgent posting before the Court. Finally, the Court was set to hear the batch of petitioners today when the court was informed by the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the letter of adjournment circulated by the petitioners.
A bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia reportedly remarked, “This is not acceptable to us. You wanted urgent listing and when the matter is listed, you want adjournment. We will not permit forum shopping.”
The counsel appearing for the petitioners justified their request for adjournment stating that the advocates were coming from all over India. To this, the Judge remarked that Karnataka was only two and a half hours away (by air from Delhi where the Supreme Court is located).
As Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out that the matter was mentioned at least six times for urgent listing, the petitioners explained that the onset of exams was the reason for the urgency. SG Mehta retorted, “So you mentioned without making preparations?”
Accordingly, the Court refused to give two weeks’ time requested by the petitioners and posted the matter on September 5, 2022.
A batch of 23 petitioners was listed before the bench including writ petitions filed directly before the Supreme Court seeking the right to wear hijab for Muslim girls students and some other special leave petitions which challenge the judgement of the Karnataka High Court dated March 15 which upheld the hijab ban.
Brief background of the case
The hijab controversy had originally erupted in wake of a Government Order issued on February 5 against the wearing of religion specific clothing in schools and pre-university colleges where a uniform has been prescribed. What followed was harassment of hijab-wearing girls on school and college campuses across the state.
Some were surrounded and heckled, others faced intimidation tactics by members and supporters of right-wing Hindutva groups. Some were even denied entry into educational institutions until they removed the traditional headscarf.
The contentious matter underwent several hearings in the Karnataka High Court that examined the following key questions:
- Whether wearing hijab is essential practice in Islamic faith, protected under Article 25 of the Constitution?
- Whether prescription of school uniform is not legally permissible as being violative of petitioner’s fundamental rights in alia guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) that is Freedom of Expression an dArticle 21 that is Privacy, of the Constitution?
- Whether the Government Order dated February 2, 2022, apart from being incompetent is issued without application of mind and further is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violates articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution?
- Whether any case is made out in WP 2146 of 2022 for the issuance of direction for initiating disciplinary enquiry against respondent no. 6 to 14 and for issuance of Writ of Quo warranto against respondent no. 15 and 16?
The high court ruled that no case was made out for invalidating the Feb 5 Government Order.
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