‘Split verdict on Hijab issue deprives Karnataka’s Muslim girls’ education’: student orgs

Image used for representational purposes

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the ban on the wearing of hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka.

Muhammad Raafi | TwoCircles.net 

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NEW DELHI — Supreme Court of India’s split verdict in the Hijab issue has invited sharp reactions with the Girl’s Islamic Organisation of India saying that the delay in settling the issue is impacting the future of thousands of girl students in Karnataka.

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on the ban on wearing of hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka – with one judge affirming that the state government is authorised to enforce uniform in schools and the other calling hijab a matter of choice that cannot be stifled by the state.

Justice Hemant Gupta’s verdict upheld the hijab ban verdict of the Karnataka High Court, while Justice Dhulia noted that hijab is a matter of choice. Since the verdict is split, the Chief Justice will assign the case to a larger bench in due course of time.

Reacting to the verdict, Sumaiyya Roshan of the GIO told TwoCircles.net that several hundred thousand Muslim girls have been deprived of education due to the hijab ban in Karnataka.

“With the split verdict of the Supreme Court, Muslim girls are being withheld from their rights and excluded from the educational sector.” 

She said that Justice Dhulia’s judgement in the Supreme Court, recognizing their right to choice and dismissing the hijab ban order issued by the Karnataka government, offers hope.

However, the interminable wait for justice dilutes the constitutionally guaranteed individual rights, she said.

While setting aside the Karnataka High Court order, Justice Dhulia said, “Venturing into ERP was not needed and the court took the wrong way. It was just a question of choice. I have held the ratio in Bijoy Emmanuel squarely covers the case. One thing which was topmost for me was the education of a girl child. A girl child in areas does household work and chores before going to school and are we making her life any better by doing this? I have respectfully differed. This was a case only dealing with Articles 19, and 25.”

Earlier, the SC bench had reserved its verdict on the pleas on September 22 after hearing arguments in the matter for 10 days.

On March 15, the high court dismissed the petitions filed by 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 Islam.

During the arguments in the apex court, several counsels appearing for the petitioners had insisted that preventing Muslim girls from wearing the hijab to the classroom will put their education in jeopardy as they might stop attending classes.

In the verdict, Justice Gupta said, “Whether college management can take a call on the uniform of students and if wearing of the hijab and restricting it is violative of Article 25. Whether rights under Article 19 and Article 25 are mutually exclusive. Whether govt order infringes upon the fundamental right. Can a student exert her fundamental right, is wearing right a part of essential religious practice under Islam, whether government order serves the purpose of access to education? the answer according to me is against the appellant. I dismiss the appeal.”

Counsel for the petitioners had argued on various aspects, including the state government’s February 5, 2022 order which banned wearing clothes that disturb equality, integrity, and public order in schools and colleges. Some advocates had also argued that the matter is referred to a five-judge constitution bench.

On the other hand, the counsel appearing for the state had argued that the Karnataka government order that kicked up a row over hijab was “religion-neutral”.

Insisting that the protests in support of wearing hijab in educational institutions were not a “spontaneous act” by a few individuals, the state’s counsel had argued in the apex court that the government would have been “guilty of dereliction of constitutional duty” if it had not acted the way it did.

The state government’s order of February 5, 2022, was challenged by some Muslim girls in the high court.

Several pleas have been filed in the apex court challenging the high court verdict.

Navida Assadi, a Muslim activist based in Hassan Karnataka said that the delay in settling matters is impacting the future of a large section of the student community and it is concerning. “Considering the long wait and the observations of Justice Dhulia, the Karnataka government order on the ban must be withdrawn allowing admission of Hijab wearing students to educational institutions.” She also urged the court to expedite the matter.

Tanvir Oberoi, a Supreme Court lawyer told TwoCircles.net that he was surprised that it was a split verdict. “I am shocked at the verdict.” He said considering the way the court has been handling things now, he is hopeful that with the new incoming Chief Justice the favour of the Supreme Court is now more liberalised and more sensitive to women’s issues, more progress-oriented and more development oriented.

“Given the fact what is happening globally, they could have said that we are a secular country. We limit states’ influence on personal beliefs.”

Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He covers politics and human rights. He tweets at @MohammadRaafi