Karnataka Muslim students move SC against hijab ban ahead of exams

Muslim students from Karnataka on Monday approached the Supreme Court, requesting a directive to allow government educational institutions in the state to permit them to sit for examinations wearing hijab.

The Supreme Court said it will consider setting up a three-judge bench to adjudicate the case related to wearing hijab in Karnataka schools following its split verdict.

A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandarchud, and Justices V Ramasubramanian and JB Pardiwala, took note of the submissions of senior lawyer Meenakshi Arora that an interim order was needed keeping in mind the examinations, scheduled for some classes from February 6 in the state.

“This is the headscarf matter. The girls have practical examinations from February 6, 2023 and this matter needs to be listed for interim directions so that they can appear. The practical examinations will be held in government schools,” the lawyer said, appearing for students.

“I will examine it. This is a three judge bench matter. We will allot a date,” the CJI said.

The senior advocate pointed out that most of the Muslim students have migrated to some private colleges in view of the continuing prohibition by the state government on wearing of hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka.

“However, exams can only be conducted in government colleges…private colleges cannot conduct exams. That’s why we want this matter to be taken up for interim orders,” Arora told the CJI.

The apex court had in October 2022 delivered a split verdict on the hijab ban in educational institutions in Karnataka – one judge affirmed that the state government is authorised to enforce uniform in schools, while the other called the hijab a matter of choice that cannot be stifled by the state.

In view of the dissenting views, the matter was referred to the Chief Justice of India for constituting an appropriate bench.