Hijab ban: “After Holi,” says SC to students’ urgent plea

Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain urgent listing of petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict enabling hijab ban.

Although students submitted exam schedules to prove the urgency, SC decided to list it after Holi vacation.

The Karnataka High Court ruled on Tuesday that “wearing of Hijab by Muslim women does not form Essential Religious Practice in Islamic faith – prescription of school uniform is only a reasonable restriction, constitutionally permissible which students cannot object to”.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for the petitioners and stated the urgency of the issue since the exams are upcoming and several girls are affected by the High Court’s order.

On Tuesday, a Muslim student named Niba Naaz moved Supreme Court challenging Karnataka High Courts ruling on the hijab. Naaz filed a Special Leave Petitions through Advocate-on-Record Anas Tanwir, Livelaw reported.

Aisha Shifat,1st year student of the Government PU College, Kundapura, Udupi District, Karnataka has also moved the Supreme Court.

The main arguments in the special leave petition filed by Niba Naaz are:

The Karnataka Education Act does not mandate uniforms in colleges and does not confer any power to the Government to issue the Government Order dated February 5 in which it was observed that Hijab was not an essential practice.

The High Court has failed to note that the right to wear a Hijab is protected as a part of the right to conscience under Article 25 of the Constitution. It is submitted that since the right to conscience is essentially an individual right, the ‘Essential Religious Practices Test’ ought not to have been applied by the Hon’ble High Court in this instant case.

Assuming the ‘Essential Religious Practices Test’ does apply, the Hon’ble High Court has failed to note that wearing of Hijab or headscarf is a practice that is essential to the practice of Islam.

The High Court has failed to note that the Indian legal system explicitly recognises the wearing / carrying of religious symbols.

High Court failed to appreciate the contention that right to wear hijab comes under the ambit of right to privacy under Article 21 and right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.

The petitioner also states that the High Court failed to address the issue of the State failing to control the hooligans who created law and order issues.

Muslim groups in Karnataka has called for Karnataka bandh on 17 March, protesting against the High Court verdict.