A Critical Evaluation of Karnataka High Court's Judgment Concerning the Hijab
A Critical Evaluation of Karnataka High Court's Judgment Concerning the Hijab
Maria Zehra
Abstract: Early in 2022, a protest erupted in the Indian state of Karnataka where the government issued an order denying entry to the hijab (head scarf) wearing Muslim female students into the state-owned school premises. A Muslim girl challenged this order before the Karnataka High Court under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which grants an individual the right to practise and profess one’s religion openly and freely. The Court upheld the government’s order on the hijab ban stating that hijab is a socio-cultural practise and not an essential practise in Islam, hence it cannot be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution. This finding of the Court goes against the opinion of majority of the scholars of Islam and their interpretation of the status of hijab as an essential part of a Muslim woman’s clothing. This article examines how the Court has wrongly construed the doctrine of essential religious practise in light of the three key judgements of Indian Courts: 1) the Shirur Mutt case of 1954 by Madras High Court; 2) the Shiroor Mutt case of 2021 by Karnataka High Court; and 3) the Bijoe Emmaneul case from 1986. This article then examines the Supreme Court of India‘s recent split verdict, specifically the arguments of Justice Dhulia, on hijab ban in Karnataka. The article concludes that based on Tafseer (interpretation) of the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions) of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), hijab has from the classical to contemporary periods been viewed as an essential religious practise in Islam, and the same view should be adopted by Indian Courts.

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