A group of girl students from Karnataka approached the top court for an urgent hearing on their petitions, seeking permission to sit for exams while wearing hijab.
On March 9 Pre-university exams in Karnataka are expected to begin. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud assured the student petitioners that he would look into the matter and form a bench.
Lawyer Shadan Farast mentioned the matter before the CJI seeking urgent listing, saying that the exams are scheduled to commence on March 9 and the girls will lose a year if they are not allowed to sit for the exams.
When the CJI asked “who was stopping them from taking exams”, the advocate said, “Girls are not allowed to take exams with their headscarves on and the girls are not ready to give exams without it. We want only limited relief for them.”
On January 23, the CJI agreed to consider the request for urgent listing, after senior advocate Meenakshi Arora mentioned the urgency of examinations, which are held in government colleges.
After the Karnataka government banned the wearing of hijab in Government Pre-University Colleges, several Muslim students had to move to private colleges. However, the exams are conducted in government colleges, where there is a restriction on hijabs. Against this backdrop, the petitioners have sought interim relief.
The supreme court in October 2022 delivered a split verdict on the ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions in Karnataka – one judge stated that the state government is authorised to enforce uniforms in schools, while the other called the hijab a matter of choice that cannot be stifled by the state.
Last year in March, the petitioners had appealed in the top court against the Karnataka high court judgment that the wearing of hijab by Muslim women is not compulsory in Islam and that the Karnataka government was well within the power to enforce the uniform mandate.
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