The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the State of Karnataka in a batch of appeals challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict that effectively upheld the ban on wearing hijab in government schools and colleges.
The Supreme Court expressed anguish at petitioners' counsel seeking adjournment on a bunch of pleas against the Karnataka High Court judgment, which upheld the right of educational institutions to ban the wearing of hijab in pre-university colleges in the state.
A bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia said this was not acceptable to the court as earlier petitioners wanted urgent listing but when the matter was listed, they want adjournment and this would not be allowed. Justice Gupta said, "We will not permit forum shopping..." The bench made this observation following Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Karnataka government, submissions that the letter seeking adjournment on hearing of petitions has been circulated by petitioners.
The petitioners' counsel submitted that lawyers have to come from all over India and some are from Karnataka. Justice Gupta said, "Karnataka is only 2.5 hours away", and added that earlier petitioners wanted an early hearing on the matter, but when it was listed before a bench, they want adjournment.
The petitioners' counsel sought two weeks' time. However, the bench replied that they have already asked for a hearing on the matter many times, and asked the counsel to argue the matter before the court. At this juncture, Mehta said the petitioners have sought an early hearing on the matter at least six times. Justice Gupta said, "We will not permit forum shopping."
Mehta said a counter affidavit may not be necessary as only questions of law are involved. After a brief hearing on the matter, the bench issued notice on the petitions and scheduled the matter for hearing next Monday.
On August 3, the top court agreed to set up a bench to consider a clutch of pleas against the Karnataka High Court judgment, which upheld the right of educational institutions to ban the wearing of hijab in pre-university colleges in the state.
A counsel mentioned the matter before a bench headed by then Chief Justice N.V. Ramana. The Chief Justice told the counsel, "I will constitute a bench. One of the judges is not well". The counsel urged the top court to fix a date in the matter, as petitions against the high court judgment were filed in March.
On July 13, advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned the matter before a bench headed by then Chief Justice N.V. Ramana saying the petitions have not been listed for a long time. "The girls are losing out on their studies. This matter was filed long back," Bhushan said. The Chief Justice had replied that it will be listed sometime next week. Bhushan mentioned the matter on behalf of the appellants who have challenged the high court verdict in the top court.
On March 24, the Supreme Court declined to give any specific date to hear a plea challenging the Karnataka High Court order, which dismissed all petitions seeking direction for permission to wear hijab in classrooms. Senior advocate Devadutt Kamat mentioned one of the cases on behalf of a petitioner, a Muslim girl student, and sought urgent listing of the matter. Kamat insisted that exams are approaching and urged the court to urgent hearing on the matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana said this had nothing to do with exams, and told Kamat not to sensationalize the matter. Kamat contended that the girl students are not being allowed to enter the schools, and they will lose one year. However, the bench moved on to the next item. On March 16, the Supreme Court declined to grant an urgent hearing on a plea challenging the Karnataka High Court order, which held that the wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in the Islamic faith.