NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (PTI): The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will take a call on listing a plea for allowing Muslim girl students to sit for examinations in Karnataka government schools while wearing the hijab.
Following the apex court’s split verdict on the issue of ban on sporting the Islamic headscarf in educational institutions in Karnataka, girls in hijab are not being permitted to take the exams scheduled to begin from March 9, a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud was told.
“They are wearing headscarves. If they are wearing a headscarf they are not allowed inside the examination hall. Only on that limited aspect, the court may consider listing it on Monday or Friday,” said lawyer Shadan Farasat.
He told the bench, also comprising Justice P S Narasimha, that a few girls have moved to private institutions because of the prohibition on wearing hijab but have to take their exams in government institutions. They risk losing another year if not permitted, he said.
“I will take a call,” the CJI said.
Due to the split verdict, the high court’s judgement still holds.
The split verdict on October 13 last year held off a permanent resolution to the hijab row as both judges suggested placing the matter before a larger bench for adjudication.
The top court had said last month it will consider setting up a three-judge bench to adjudicate the case related to the ban on wearing the Muslim headgear in Karnataka government schools.
While Justice Hemant Gupta, since retired, had dismissed the appeals challenging the March 15, 2022 judgement of the Karnataka High Court which had refused to lift the ban, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia held there will be no restriction on wearing 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”, Justice Gupta had said, while Justice Dhulia insisted that putting on the Muslim headscarf should simply be a “matter of choice”.
On March 15, 2022, the high court had 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 the Islamic faith.
During the arguments in the apex court, a number of counsel appearing for the petitioners had insisted that preventing Muslim girls from wearing the hijab to the classroom will put their education in jeopardy as they might stop attending classes.
Insisting that the agitation in support of wearing hijab in educational institutions was not a “spontaneous act” by a few individuals, the state’s counsel had argued in the apex court that the government would have been “guilty of dereliction of constitutional duty” if it had not acted the way it did.
The state government’s order of February 5, 2022 was challenged by Muslim girls in the high court.
Several pleas have been filed in the apex court challenging the high court verdict.