Supreme Court delivers split verdict on Karnataka hijab ban

Updated - October 14, 2022 04:24 am IST

Published - October 13, 2022 09:40 pm IST

Aftab Ali Khan, a lawyer representing one of the petitioners in the hijab ban case, briefs the media at the Supreme Court premises in New Delhi on October 13, 2022.

Aftab Ali Khan, a lawyer representing one of the petitioners in the hijab ban case, briefs the media at the Supreme Court premises in New Delhi on October 13, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, on Thursday, delivered a split verdict on the appeals of students who had challenged the Karnataka High Court decision that wearing hijab is not an essential practice of Islam.

While Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the appeals, Sudhanshshu Dhulia set aside the High Court verdict. Justice Gupta said the prohibition on hijab in classrooms does not violate free expression and the choice of Muslim girl students. However, Justice Dhulia held that the Karnataka High Court was wrong in deciding whether or not wearing hijab was an essential part of Islam.

Embracing the Supreme Court's judgement in the Bijoe Emmanuel case, which had held that courts only need to test whether a practice is prevalent, was established and a bona fide one, Justice Dhulia said wearing hijab meets all the three criteria.

Justice Dhulia also highlighted the importance of the education of girl children and how nothing should impede that goal. He said girl children, especially in rural India, are already facing tremendous odds in their path to get an education. The state and the society should not place any more of these roadblocks. "Are we making their lives any better," he asked.

The petitions were referred to the Chief Justice of India who would appoint an appropriate and larger Bench to re-hear the case.

Uddhav faction alleges Election Commission ‘biased’ towards Shinde group

With the Andheri East bypoll turning out to be a bitter flashpoint for the rival Sena factions, the Uddhav Thackeray-led group accused the Election Commission of India of showing an alleged ‘bias’ towards the ruling Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in recent the allocation of party symbols and names.

In a four-page letter to the poll body from the Thackeray camp now known as the ‘Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)’, the latter has charged the ECI of ‘revealing’ its strategy to the Shinde camp (now called ‘Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena’) by uploading a copy of a confidential letter sent by the Thackeray camp containing the possible party name and symbol alternatives to be used in the upcoming Andheri East byeelection even before Shinde’s group had submitted his own list.

In the letter, which ticked off the ECI on 12 points, the Thackeray faction claimed that the ECI’s “intentionally uploading” of their confidential letter on the website helped the Shinde group to decode its strategy.

“Otherwise, how did the Shinde group give the same [party symbol and name] options as us? Further, to the surprise of the respondent [Thackeray faction], it was seen that the Hon’ble Commission thereafter deleted this letter from its website. Needless to say, no letter of the petitioner [Shinde group] stating his preference of symbols and names was ever uploaded on the [ECI] website,” said the letter, which was handed to the ECI by the Thackeray group’s lawyer.

The letter has also sought an assurance from the ECI that such ‘biases’ in favour of the Eknath Shinde faction will not continue in the future and that both groups will be given the same preference.

Thackeray group loyalist, MP Anil Desai remarked that it was incredible that the Shinde faction always got what they wanted, while casting aspersions on the ‘neutrality’ of the ECI.

Amit Shah credits PM Modi for ‘resolving’ J&K mess left by Nehru 

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “resolving the mess” created by the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Jammu and Kashmir. He said Article 370 granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir was a “grave error” and Mr. Modi rectified it in 2019

Mr. Shah was launching Gujarat BJP’s Gaurav Yatra from three routes in Ahmedabad district and from Navsari in south Gujarat.

“Due to the mistake of Jawaharlal Nehru, who inserted Article 370, Kashmir was in a mess. it could not be properly integrated with the rest of the country. Everybody wanted the removal of Article 370. Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed it in one stroke and completed integration of Kashmir with the country in 2019,” he told the gathering of mostly BJP workers.

The ruling party has launched Gaurav Yatra from five routes to cover 144 Assembly seats across the State. Two Yatra routes were inaugurated by BJP President J.P. Nadda on Wednesday while the Union Home Minister launched the three routes on Thursday.

Mr. Shah’s remarks on the country’s first Prime Minister regarding Jammu and Kashmir came barely a few days after the similar view was expressed by Mr. Modi while campaigning in Gujarat. He too had blamed Pandit Nehru for the “mess” in Jammu and Kashmir and contended that he had to correct the first Prime Minister’s blunder.

Top BJP leaders have been targeting the Congress and its leaders on various issues and subjects, including Jammu and Kashmir, for not visiting Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity, targeting Gujarat during the UPA regime and non-development of the State during the past Congress governments.

The ruling BJP leaders have given credit to Mr. Modi for “resolving” the Jammu and Kashmir issue, building a grand temple for Lord Ram in Ayodhya and ushering in politics of development in the country.

Some leaders openly supporting Kharge disturbs level-playing field: Tharoor

Congress presidential candidate Shashi Tharoor said that some leaders had openly come out in support of his rival Mallikarjun Kharge and even summoned meetings in his favour, saying that it disturbed the level-playing field.

He also said several PCC chiefs and senior leaders were not available for a meeting with him during his visits to their respective States, but they warmed up to Kharge when he visited them for support.

Seeking votes from delegates at the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) office in New Delhi, Tharoor said he wanted to bring a "change" in the organisation. He also “aimed to bring back” the voters who did not support the Congress in the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Further, Tharoor said he could not meet some delegates as their contact details were "missing" from the list provided to him.

"There were incomplete contact details in the list of delegates that we received. Some lists had names but no contact numbers, some had names but no proper address. Hence, it was difficult to reach out to them," he claimed.

However, he said he doesn't "blame anyone" for the "incomplete" lists and that there are "flaws" in the party's system as no such election was held in 22 years.He also maintained that the presidential election will be held in a "free and fair" manner and that there is no enmity with Kharge.

Meanwhile, in an interview to the The Hindu, Kharge said that it was impossible to mobilise the Congress and add strength without the Gandhis. The party veteran added that without the Congress, there can’t be strong Opposition politics as every other party has a regional identity. Read the full interview here.

As China reaffirms zero-COVID, a rare Beijing protest

Dashing the expectations of many in China of an easing in the stringent “zero-COVID” regime following next week’s Communist Party congress, the official People’s Daily newspaper has defended a continuation of the policy as “sustainable”.

While sparing China mass deaths, the third straight year of “zero-COVID” has inflicted economic pain even as the testing and lockdown measures that held firm in 2020 and 2021 have been challenged by new variants, leading to harsher lockdowns. China is currently dealing with its biggest spread of COVID-19 cases since the early days of the pandemic.

Social media showed images of a rare protest in Beijing, despite the current blanket of security ahead of Sunday’s Communist Party congress, with banners displayed on a bridge in the district of Haidian, home to universities and tech firms, calling for an end to the policy. The banners were taken down by the police.

“Food, not COVID tests,” it read. “Reform, not a Cultural Revolution. Freedom, not lockdowns. Votes, not a leader. Dignity, not lies. Citizens, not slaves”.

Medical workers in protective suits gather swabs from passengers at an arrival hall of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, following a COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai on October 12, 2022. Photo: cnsphoto via Reuters

Medical workers in protective suits gather swabs from passengers at an arrival hall of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, following a COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai on October 12, 2022. Photo: cnsphoto via Reuters

Days ahead of the October 16 congress that is set to confirm President Xi Jinping’s third term, the People’s Daily, however, strongly defended the policy, publishing, starting from Monday, three commentaries supporting the policy in three consecutive editions, and slamming those advocating a loosening for “lying flat”.

“If there is a large-scale COVID-19 resurgence, the spread of the epidemic will have a serious impact on economic and social development, and the final cost will be higher and the loss will be greater,” it said.

Zero-COVID has been framed as one of Xi’s key legacies as he completes a decade at the helm, and contrasted with mass deaths in the West. The political narrative surrounding it had been seen as one reason for its continuation until the congress.

However, there are few signs of loosening even as Xi’s third term begins. Chinese health experts have said a moving away from the policy would require a sustained vaccination booster campaign, as well as a significant change in the current government messaging that portrays COVID-19 as a life-threatening disease. A shift, experts say, would require several months of preparation on both fronts.

The economic costs and lockdowns have, however, left the public less supportive of a policy that most backed in 2020 and 2021, as China enjoyed a degree of normalcy such as open schools and factories as the rest of the world reeled from the virus.

In Brief:

ED files charge sheet against journalist Rana Ayyub

The Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against journalist Rana Ayyub in connection with a case alleging that she illegally acquired funds in the name of charity. The Ghaziabad Police had registered the case in September 2021 with respect to the money raised through fundraiser campaigns via an online crowdfunding platform, Ketto. According to the ED, its probe revealed that Ayyub had launched three fundraiser campaigns on Ketto platform starting from April 2020 and collected funds totalling to over ₹2.69 crore. The agency has alleged that the funds raised on the online platforms were received in the accounts of her father and sister and subsequently transferred to her personal accounts.

NATO holds nuclear talks amid war tensions, Putin threats

NATO’s secretive Nuclear Planning Group met as the military alliance presses ahead with plans to hold a nuclear exercise next week despite deep concern over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that he will use any means necessary to defend Russian territory. Defence Ministers led the session, which usually happens once or twice a year, at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO is keeping a wary eye on Russia’s movements, but has so far seen no change in its nuclear posture. But additional uncertainty comes from the fact that Russia is also due to hold its own nuclear exercises soon, possibly at the same time as NATO or just after, according to NATO diplomats.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow.

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