The single-judge bench of the High Court held that there are larger constitutional questions that need to be addressed in the issue, as personal laws are involved.

Karnataka Hijab row: Hijab wearing students walking alongside students wearing saffron scarves
news Court Wednesday, February 09, 2022 - 15:59

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday, February 9, referred the batch of petitions filed by Muslim students against the hijab ban at colleges in Karnataka to a larger bench. Justice Krishna Dixit of the Karnataka High Court said that there are some constitutional questions of seminal importance, as there is an aspect of personal law involved in the issue. The High Court did not pass an interim order, adding that after the Chief Justice constitutes a larger bench, the petitioners can move that bench for an interim order. 

Citing the enormity of 'questions of importanceā€™ that are being debated in the court, Justice Dixit said that the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court will decide if a larger bench should be constituted to hear the issue. The Karnataka High Court has said that after the Chief Justice constitutes a larger bench, the petitioners can move that bench for an interim order. 

At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, the judge expressed a view that the matter should be referred to a larger bench. The counsel for petitioners had urged the court to pass an interim order allowing the hijab-wearing students to attend classes, as examinations are only two months away. Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi opposed any interim relief, reiterating the government's stand that dress code must be followed. Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya appeared for the College Development Committee of the Karnataka college, submitting that a dress code has been in place for years, has been followed until an 'artificial interjection came from outside.' Advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for the petitioners and sought that they be allowed to attend classes as "no girl child should be deprived of education."

In the previous hearing, the counsel for the petitioners had submitted that wearing hijab is an essential religious practice. The Karnataka government counsel argued before the court that the students must adhere to the dress code mandated by the educational institution, and cited previous judgments to say that the hijab is not an integral part of the religious practice. 

In its submission before the court, the government had said that the students submitted an undertaking to wear a uniform in college and not wearing it would amount to a violation of the code of conduct as mandated by the institution. The government added that an educational institution is not a place to profess or practice any caste or religion. 

The Karnataka High Court had on February 8 asked the public to maintain peace and tranquility after sporadic violence was reported from parts of the state over the hijab row. 

Also read: Section 144, protests and stone-pelting: 10 developments in Karnataka hijab row