The Karnataka hijab ban case received a split verdict from the Supreme Court on Thursday as Justice Hemant Gupta upheld the hijab ban while Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia gave his verdict in favour of removing the ban on wearing hijab. The matter will now be placed before the Chief Justice of India for appropriate directions.
What Justice Hemant Gupta's verdict says
Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed all 26 appeals against the Karnataka high court verdict that hijab was not an essential practice of Islam and allowed the ban on hijab in educational institutions in the state.
On Thursday, as the verdict was read out, Justice Hemant Gupta affirmed the Karnataka High Court order in March, while Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia quashed the state government's order on wearing of the headscarves.
The matter has now been referred to Chief Justice of India UU Lalit for constituting a larger bench.
Among the arguments that had been raised during the hearings earlier was that Muslim girls may stop attending classes amid the ban on wearing of headscarves.
The BJP-led government in Karnataka, which had announced the curbs, has insisted that the order is "religion neutral''. The southern state of Karnataka has been witness to massive protests over the government order.
The row broke out when the Government PU College in Udupi was accused of barring girl students wearing the hijab from entering classrooms. The demonstrations, which started in Udupi, later spread to other parts of the state, and then captured the nation's attention.
In March, the Karnataka High Court had upheld the 5 February executive order of the government as it said that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islam. It was said to be the first ruling by a constitutional court in the country on whether hijab constitutes an essential religious practice in Islam, entitled to protection under the Indian Constitution, subject to least measures of interference by the State.
The high court bench headed by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi - in its 129-page judgment - had held that Quran - the holy book for Muslims - does not mandate wearing of hijab for women and that the attire "at the most is a means to gain access to public places" and a "measure of social security", but "not a religious end in itself". It had also favoured a "speedy and effective" investigation into stoking up of the hijab controversy in Karnataka, suspecting some "unseen hands at work to engineer social unrest and disharmony in the state".