The Supreme Court on February 11 assured protection of constitutional rights and intervention at an “appropriate time” even as it cautioned against “spreading” of the controversy triggered by the hijab ban in Karnataka classrooms to a “national level.”
“Do not spread things to a larger level. We are watching what is happening there. You have to think whether it is necessary to bring it to a national level. If there is something wrong, we will protect your constitutional rights. We are also concerned. Let us see... at the appropriate time, we will interfere,” Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana addressed senior advocate Devadut Kamat, appearing for some students.
Mr. Kamat was orally mentioning an appeal against an “interim order” of the Karnataka High Court on Thursday in petitions challenging the hijab ban in classrooms.
“The High Court has indicated that it would pass an interim order that none of the students should wear anything which would disclose their religious identity... Such an order would have wide ramifications not only for Muslims but also for people following other faiths. For example, Sikhs wear turbans. Such an order would amount to a complete suspension of Article 25 [right to religious freedom],” Mr. Kamat submitted.
He urged the CJI to list the appeal for hearing on Monday.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State government, said the High Court order was yet to come out. Mr. Kamat should have mentioned that fact.
“We do not know what the order is yet. Meanwhile, the issue should not be made communal or political,” Mr. Mehta submitted.
Mr. Kamat said the appeal delved solely on constitutional issues and had nothing communal or political about it. He said the arguments in the special leave petition were entirely legal and focused on a crucial right guaranteed by the Constitution.
“The interim order may have a far-reaching effect. Schools and colleges are closed in the State... Hear us on Monday,” Mr. Kamat urged.
“Please leave it to us,” the Chief Justice assured him.
On February 10, a Bench of the High Court led by Karnataka Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi indicated to the advocates for the petitioner-students and the State Advocate-General that the court would pass an interim order for starting the educational institutions and that students should not insist on wearing head scarves or saffron shawls till the court decided the issues raised in the petitions.
Chief Justice Awasthi had stressed on the need to restore peace and tranquillity in the State. The HC had indicated that it would even hear the petitions on a day-to-day basis and decide at the earliest.
The petitions were then scheduled for hearing on February 14.