SCO Daily: Supreme Court Issues Split Verdict in Hijab Ban Case

On October 13th, the bench comprising Justices Gupta and Dhulia delivered a split verdict in the Hijab Ban case. What next?

A 2-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict in the Karnataka Hijab Ban appeal today. Justice Hemant Gupta, in chorus with the Karnataka High Court’s decision, upheld the Hijab Ban. On the other hand, Justice Dhulia quashed the High Court’s decision.

Justice Gupta was of the opinion that the Karnataka government was well within its rights to ban the Hijab in educational institutions. He stated that the State government’s policy upheld fraternity among different communities. Allowing students to wear the Hijab in a secular institution would create feelings of inequality among different students.

Justice Dhulia, during the Judgment pronouncement, stated that the education of the girl child was foremost on his mind. ‘It is a matter of choice. Nothing more, nothing less’, he said. In his Judgment, he pointed out that the focus of the hearings should have been on the Rights to Equality and Freedom of Speech. 

The Hijab Ban case involves a wide range of rights concerning Muslim girl students. These include the Right to Equality, the Right to Practice Religion, the Right to Access Education, the Right to Speech, the Right to Privacy, and the Right to Dress with Dignity. 

Today, neither Judge commented on the Essentiality of the Hijab to Islam. Interestingly, even among the parties, the general consensus was that the question of whether wearing the Hijab is an Essential Religious Practice should not be the focus of the case. However, ERP arguments dominated the hearings, spanning 14 of the nearly 25 hours of hearings.

So what’s next for the Hijab Ban challenge? The split decision by the 2-Judge Bench means that a larger Bench must now hear the case. It is up to CJI Lalit to allocate the case to a larger Bench. 

Hearings in the case took place over 9 days across 3 weeks. The Judgment was delivered another 2 weeks after the hearings concluded. It appears that Muslim girl students’ long journey to access education whilst wearing a Hijab is far from over.

Interested in reading more about the case? SCO’s coverage includes detailed hearing reports on the hearings at the High Court and Supreme Court. We also have a time split of the arguments made, analyses of different stages of the case and a Judgment matrix breaking down the decisions of both Judges. 

Visit the scobserver website to stay updated with the case.