Hijab Hearing Law Insider

Tanisha Rana

Published on: October 13, 2022 at 10:21 IST

Today, the Supreme Court will pronounce its verdict on a batch of appeals challenging a Karnataka High Court decision that had upheld a government order (GO) that effectively gave government colleges in the State the authority to forbid Muslim female students from wearing the hijab on college campuses. (Fathima Bushra vs. State of Karnataka).

A bench made up of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia will announce the verdict. The court had reserved its decision on September 22 after hearing the case for ten days.

In this case, five attorneys represented the respondents while twenty-one attorneys represented the appellants.

The Karnataka High Court judgment on March 15 upholding the Karnataka government decision is being contested in front of the Supreme Court.

Muslim female students from various colleges in Karnataka who had been denied permission to attend class because they were wearing the hijab filed the petitions with the High Court.

Former Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, together with Justices Krishna S. Dixit and J.M. Khazi of the High Court, had ruled in a three-judge bench that:

  • The hijab is not a part of essential religious practises of Islam;
  • According to Article 19(1)(a), the requirement of uniforms is a fair constraint on the freedom of expression;
  • The GO may be passed by the government; there is no evidence to the contrary.

The appellants argued before the Supreme Court that the State had failed to make a reasonable accommodation so that the student might exercise her right under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

They also emphasised that restrictions on clothing can only be imposed if it disturbs public order, and that it is the role of the State to guarantee that conditions are set up so that people can exercise their fundamental rights.

The appellants argued that the only factor that needed to be taken into account was whether the limitation was found to be a lawful Constitutional restriction with regard to the Fundamental Religious Practice Test (ERP) and whether the hijab is essential to Islam.

However, some of the appellants also argued that nothing in the Quran was directory and that everything in it was required. Islam therefore required the hijab to be worn.

The appellants asserted that the government order discriminated against people based on their sex and their faith.

On the other side, the State government insisted that the directive was “religion-neutral” and did not single out any one particular community.

The court was informed that the Muslim female students contesting the hijab ban had never worn a hijab to school prior to 2021 but had suddenly started doing so after the Popular Front of India initiated a social media campaign intended to stir up controversy.

Additionally, according to the government, an ERP could only be linked to a religion’s founding principles or be so compelling that it rendered the faith incomprehensible without it.

Related Post