Supreme Court judges Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia gave a split verdict in the Karnataka Hijab ban case on Thursday.
According to media reports, Justice Hemant Gupta upheld the hijab ban while Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia ruled in favour of removing it.
The matter will now be placed before the Chief Justice of India, to be heard from a larger bench, usually a three-member panel.
The CJI may also decide to refer this case directly to a Constitution bench of five judges or to a nine-judge bench.
The bench was delivering its verdict on a bunch of petitions filed by girl students, women’s right groups, lawyers, activists and Islamic bodies, who challenged the March 15 Karnataka High Court judgment.
The ban on hijab, as ordered by the High Court, remains in force, on account of the split verdict.
‘Secularism is applicable to all citizens, therefore, permitting one religious community to wear their religious symbols would be antithesis to secularism. Thus, the Government Order (of February 2022) cannot be said to be against the ethic of secularism or to the objective of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983,’ Justice Gupta observed.
‘The students are free to profess their religion and carry out their religious activities other than when they are attending a classroom where religious identities should be left behind,’ he added.
‘By asking the girls to take off their hijab before they enter the school gates, is first an invasion on their privacy, then it is an attack on their dignity, and then ultimately it is a denial to them of secular education…The question this court would put before itself is also whether we are making the life of a girl child any better by denying her education merely because she wears a hijab!’ Justice Dhulia countered.
The two judges, however, were unanimous in their opinions that the state government has the power under the Karnataka Education Act and the pertinent rules to prescribe a dress code in recognized educational institutions.
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.
The Karnataka government said that it expected a ‘better judgment’ from the Supreme Court.
Education minister B C Nagesh said on Thursday, ‘At a time when there is a movement against hijab and burqa across the globe and the freedom of women is a talking point, the Karnataka government had expected a better judgment that will bring an order in the education system but a split verdict has come.’
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius