The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday referred the matter of whether students should be allowed to wear the hijabs in educational institutions to a larger bench, Live Law reported.

“Having regard to the enormity of questions of importance which are debated, the court is of the considered opinion that the papers be put at the hand of CJ [chief justice] to decide if a larger bench can be constituted in the subject matter,” Justice Krishna Dixit said.

Dixit has been hearing petitions filed by students of Government Women’s Pre-University College in Kundapura town of Udupi district seeking permission to wear hijabs in the educational institute.

On February 3, the college had barred the students from entering the premises. Two days later, the Karnataka government had passed an order that banned students from wearing clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

Over the past few days, Hindu students at several places in Karnataka have protested against women wearing hijabs to college. In Devangere district, the police had to fire in the air and use tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.

The protests also prompted the government to close all high schools and colleges in the state for three days from February 9. The police have put a two-week ban on protests near educational institutions.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Karnataka’s advocate general opposed referring the matter to a larger bench. He said that the matter had already become “larger” and “everybody was looking up to the court for a decision”.

“There may be emotions outside the court but the question of law is to be decided by the court,” the advocate general said.

Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who is representing the petitioners, asked the court to allow students to attend classed while wearing hijabs till the end of the academic year, which ends in two months.

In response, the advocate general said that an interim order at this stage of hearing will amount to “allowing the petition”.

Justice Dixit, however, said that the interim pleas also needed to be scrutinised by a larger bench.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the High Court had asked students holding protests to maintain peace and tranquillity. Justice Dixit had blamed a “mischievous section” which he said was keeping the controversy “burning”.

“But making agitation, going on the street, shouting slogans, attacking students, students attacking others, these are not good things,” Dixit said.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka government on Monday told the High Court that students had submitted an undertaking to adhere to the uniform prescribed by the institutions, The News Minute reported. In an affidavit, the government said that not wearing the uniform will amount to violations of the institution’s code of conduct.

The affidavit added that allowing a student to wear any cloth other than the prescribed uniform could be seen as “preferential treatment,” and a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India that guarantees the right to equality.

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