The Karnataka Examination Authority on Monday announced that wearing “any garment or cap that covers head, mouth or ears” will not be allowed during the recruitment examinations for various boards and corporations on November 18 and November 19 across the state, The Hindu reported.

The order is part of efforts to stop malpractices using Bluetooth devices, the authority said.

“We are only taking all precautions strictly to avoid malpractice in the examination,” S Ramya, the executive director of the authority, told The Hindu. “Last time, some candidates used Bluetooth devices while writing the exam. Therefore, this time we have imposed the dress code and restricted any garments that cover the head, mouth or ears.”

While the dress code does not specifically state that hijab has been banned in examination halls, the guidelines would effectively disallow wearing the headscarf.

Earlier, women wearing hijab had to arrive at the examination centres early for a check before they were allowed to enter.

After Opposition from leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindutva groups, the authority also allowed candidates to wear mangalsutra and toe ring that had not been permitted earlier, the newspaper reported. The circular specifically mentions that these two items are exempt from the dress code on jewellery.

Last month, the Congress-led state government had allowed candidates to wear hijab during recruitment examinations for government services on October 28 and October 29. Karnataka’s Higher Education Minister MC Sudhakar had said that not allowing the headscarf would amount to infringing upon the rights of individuals.

In February 2022, the government led by the BJP had imposed a ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions through an order that outlawed clothing that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

This was after, in December 2021, a college in Udupi stopped six girls from attending classes for wrapping the headscarf. The girls staged a protest in the college and soon such demonstrations spread to other parts of the state.

The girls challenged the order in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the ban. In its judgement, the High Court held that wearing hijab was not essential to Islam.

The judgement was then challenged before the Supreme Court, which delivered a split verdict in October 2022. A two-judge bench said that the matter would be placed before the chief justice for his directions on the future course of action. The Supreme Court has not yet formed a bench to hear the matter.

After the Congress won Assembly elections in the state in May, the party’s lone Muslim woman MLA Kaneez Fatima had said that the ban would be lifted.