SC delivers split verdict in Karnataka hijab ban matter, matter referred to CJI

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the Karnataka High Court judgement refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state.

While Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the appeals against the high court verdict, Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia allowed them.

“There is divergence of opinion,” Justice Gupta, who was heading the bench, said at the outset while pronouncing the verdict.

In view of the split verdict, the bench directed that the appeals against the high court verdict be placed before the Chief Justice of India for constituting an appropriate larger bench.

While pronouncing the judgement, Justice Dhulia said the high court had taken a wrong path and that wearing Hijab is ultimately “A matter of choice, nothing more, nothing less”.

He said his main thrust in the judgment is concept of essential religious practice which was not essential to the dispute.

Saying that his focus was on education of the girl child, especially in rural areas, Justice Dhulia asked, “Are we making her life any better”.

While allowing the appeals against the high court verdict, Justice Dhulia said he has quashed the state government’s February 5, 2022 order which banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public order in schools and colleges.

On March 15, 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 Islamic faith.