New Delhi, Oct 13 (EFE).- India’s Supreme Court on Thursday was divided over an appeal regarding a ban on Muslim girls from using the hijab, or Islamic head covering, in schools in a southern state in the country.
The appeal was against a High Court ruling in the state of Karnataka in February that upheld a ban on wearing the hijab in schools, considering it a non essential practice in Islam, as the issue led to widespread protests and debates.
“There is divergence of opinion,” said Judge Hemant Gupta, heading the two-judge bench, while announcing the verdict.
The purpose of the session was to look into multiple appeals against the Karnataka High Court order upholding the ban issued by the state government.
While Gupta was in favor of rejecting the appeals, Judge Sudhanshu Dhulia believed the use of the hijab should be “a matter of choice,” according to Live Law, an Indian media specializing in legal reporting.
“The thing that was most important in my mind while deciding this case was the education of a girl child. (…) What I asked is: Are we making her life any better,” said Dhulia while presenting his position, while referring to difficulties faced by girls in accessing education.
The judges, however, have agreed to refer the case to the Chief Justice so that a new panel with a greater number of judges may be formed that can issue a majority decision.
According to the legal team that led the appeals, the case is not related to a “fundamental religious practice,” but “guaranteeing the right to education of the country’s girls regardless of what they eat or what clothes they wear,” defense attorney Anas Tanwir told EFE.
“Today our stand is vindicated,” he said referring to Judge Dhulia’s comments, and expressed hope that their challenge would be upheld by a larger bench of the apex court.
The Karnataka state government’s decision to ban the hijab in schools generated controversy as it was seen by Muslims as another way to marginalize the Muslim majority under the rule of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Earlier this year, young Muslim women and activists took to the streets wearing the Islamic veil, claiming their right to wear it.
Meanwhile, several other groups of students encouraged by right-wing Hindu movements came out to demonstrate their opposition to the hijab, provoking intense clashes and unrest that lasted several days.
Hindus are a majority in India, making up 80.5 percent of the population, while around 15 percent are Muslims, according to official data. EFE