The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to constitute a bench to hear a plea demanding that Muslim students should be allowed to wear hijabs in government-run colleges in Karnataka, Bar and Bench reported.

This was after the lawyer for the state Shariat Committee told the court that exams were slated to begin from March 9, and sought early listing of the case.

The matter was mentioned before a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and PS Narasimha.

Initially, the chief justice said that the case could be heard after the court’s Holi break. However, the lawyer said that the exams were to begin in five days and that the case had earlier been mentioned before the court on two occasions.

“Ok, I will constitute a bench and hear it,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

Last week, advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for the students, had urged the Supreme Court to hear the case urgently as their academic future was at stake, reported The Hindu. “They have already lost a year,” Farasat said. “Though they are private college students, the exams are held in government institutions. Allow them to take part in the exams.”

On October 13, a Supreme Court bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had delivered a split verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the Karnataka High Court order to uphold the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled-state government’s ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions.

Justice Dhulia had set aside the High Court ruling and quashed the state government’s order in his judgement, while Gupta had dismissed the appeals. The division bench had said that the case would be placed before the chief justice for his directions on the future course of action.

A report by human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties published in September had found that the hijab ban in Karnataka had deprived thousands of Muslim girls and women across the state from access to education. The report said that several students had to drop out of educational institutes because of the directive.

“These rights which have been violated include Right to Education without Discrimination, Right to Equality, Right to Dignity, Right to Privacy, Right to Expression, Right to Non-Discrimination and Freedom from Arbitrary State Action,” the PUCL report said.