The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Karnataka government on a batch of petitions challenging a High Court order that had upheld the state’s ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing 23 pleas against the High Court’s conclusion in March that hijab was not an essential practice in Islam.

The matter was taken up on Monday – the first working day under new Chief Justice of India UU Lalit.

However, at the hearing the judges pulled up the petitioners for seeking an adjournment. “You wanted urgent hearing and when the matter is listed, you seek adjournment,” Justice Gupta said. “We will not permit forum shopping.”

Accepting Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s request, the judges issued a notice to the Karnataka government and posted the matter for hearing on September 5.

On July 13, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioners, had sought an urgent listing of the pleas. Bhushan had contended that girl students willing to wear the hijab were losing out on their studies due to the ban.

Chief Justice Lalit’s predecessor NV Ramana had said that the Supreme Court would hear the matter a week later. However, the petitions were not listed. On August 2, Ramana said it was because that the judges who were supposed to hear the petitions were not well, Live Law reported.

Hijab ban case

On March 15, the Karnataka High Court had upheld the state government’s ban on hijabs in schools and colleges and held that headscarves were not essential to Islam.

A controversy had erupted after, in December and January, a group of Muslim students of the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi city were not allowed to attend classes for being dressed in hijab. The students staged a protest, and similar demonstrations were held in other parts of Karnataka.

Hindu students and mobs of men protested against Muslim women wearing hijabs to educational institutes. At some colleges, Muslim students were heckled, while in another case, some men climbed up a flagpole to plant a saffron flag and broke into classrooms.

On February 5, the Karnataka government passed an order banning clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”. The students then moved the High Court against the ban.

Days after the High Court upheld the ban, a group of students had moved the Supreme Court contending that they would miss their exams due to the ban. However, Ramana refused an urgent hearing in March, saying that the hijab ban had nothing to do with exams.