The Supreme Court is set to pronounce its judgment on Thursday on a slew of petitions that challenged the ban on wearing of hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women and girls, in educational institutes. The hearing in the top court over the matter – which has become a highly emotive issue – spanned over 10 days before the final order was reserved on September 22 by a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia.

Among the arguments that had been raised during the hearings was that Muslim girls may stop attending classes amid the ban on wearing of headscarves.

The BJP-led government in Karnataka, which had announced the curbs, has insisted that the order is “religion neutral”. The southern state of Karnataka has been witness to massive protests over the government order.

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.

In March, the Karnataka High Court had upheld the February 5 executive order of the government as it said that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islam. It was said to be the first ruling by a constitutional court in the country on whether hijab constitutes an essential religious practice in Islam, entitled to protection under the Indian Constitution, subject to least measures of interference by the State.

The high court bench headed by chief justice Ritu Raj Awasthi – in its 129-page judgment – had held that Quran – the holy book for Muslims – does not mandate wearing of hijab for women and that the attire “at the most is a means to gain access to public places” and a “measure of social security”, but “not a religious end in itself”. It had also favoured a “speedy and effective” investigation into stoking up of the hijab controversy in Karnataka, suspecting some “unseen hands at work to engineer social unrest and disharmony in the state”.

By Shadab

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