The Supreme Court on Monday said it will consider setting up a three-judge bench to adjudicate the case related to wearing of the Islamic head covering 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 advocate Meenakshi Arora that an interim order was needed keeping in mind the practical 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 senior lawyer said, appearing for some students.
“I will examine it. This is a three judge bench matter. We will allot a date,” the CJI said. A two judge bench of the apex court had on October 13, last year delivered opposing verdicts in the hijab controversy, and urged the Chief Justice to constitute an appropriate bench to adjudicate the case that stemmed from a ban on wearing of Islamic head covering in Karnataka schools. While Justice Hemant Gupta, since retired, had dismissed the appeals challenging the March 15 judgement of the Karnataka High Court which had refused to lift the ban, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia held there will be no restriction on the wearing of 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 wearing the Muslim headscarf should simply be a “matter of choice.” With the apex court delivering a split verdict, the high court’s judgement still holds the field. However, the split verdict held off a permanent resolution of the row over hijab as both judges suggested placing the matter before a larger bench for adjudication.
On March 15, the high court 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 Islamic faith. Several appeals were filed in the apex court against the verdict.