Supreme Court reserves order on Hijab ban case after 10 days of hearing on religion, PFI role
The Supreme Court has reserved its order on the Karnataka hijab ban in educational institutions. The court heard petitions challenging the hijab ban for 10 days.
By Aneesha Mathur: After 10 days of arguments before the bench, the Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on the petitions challenging the ban on wearing hijab in schools in Karnataka.
"Now it is time for us to do our homework and reading," remarked the bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia while reserving its verdict.
More than 20 lawyers, including senior advocates Rajiv Dhavan, Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid, Devdatt Kamat, and Sanjay Hegde, among others, submitted arguments on behalf of the petitioners.
The government was represented by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, ASG KM Nataraj, and Karnataka Advocate General Prabhulinga Navadgi.
On Thursday, the court granted time to the petitioner's lawyers to give rebuttal arguments against the stand taken by the government.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who represents the Muslim petitioners, criticised the solicitor for bringing up the "irrelevant" issue of the PFI's involvement and the "conspiracy" to incite street protests.
Quoting an order passed by a different bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday over sensationalism and hate speech in the media, Dave argued that the submissions made by the SG had "created prejudice" when the issue before the court was constitutional rights.
Dave also argued that the state had the "right to renounce its own circular." Dave and other petitioners had submitted a circular issued by the Karnataka Education Department in 2021, which clearly stated that uniforms are not mandatory in government PU colleges and that any mandatory uniforms imposed by the college administration could attract punishment.
"The SG has said their own guidelines are unsubstantiated arguments. Their own affidavit gives the guidelines for 2022, which says uniforms are not compulsory. How are they disowning their own guidelines?" questioned Dave.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi also argued that "no cogent reason is given for how wearing hijab will impair education or discipline."
Arguments were also submitted by senior advocates Salman Khurshid, Devdatt Kamat and Sanjay Hegde for rebuttal.
The issue involves interpretation of whether hijab is an essential religious practice of Islam and also constitutional law questions of the right to freedom of conscience, culture, privacy, and dignity.
The Muslim petitioners have also argued that since it is an issue of interpretation of religion and the scope of the government's power to regulate religious practice, it should be referred to the nine-judge bench set up for the Sabarimala and other religion-gender issue cases.
With Justice Hemant Gupta scheduled to retire on October 16 this year, the verdict in the matter is expected before his retirement date.