Guarantees Right To Fair Trial – France's Apex Court Upholds Ban On Lawyers Wearing Hijab In Courtrooms
France's Court of Cassation (Apex Court) on Wednesday upheld a ban on lawyers wearing hijab and other religious symbols in the Courts in the north of the country.
The Court has held that the ban was necessary and appropriate to safeguard the independence of the barristers and also to guarantee free trial, as per Reuters.
The case was filed by a 30-year-old Sarah Asmeta who had challenged the rule set by the Bar Council of Lille that puts a ban on the religious markers in the judiciary on the ground that it led to discrimination.
In its ruling, the Court of Cassation added that banning religious symbols did not lead to discrimination.
Months after Asmeta took an oath and entered the law as a trainee lawyer, the Bar Council of Lille passed its own rule that bans signs of political, philosophical, and religious conviction to be worn with the gown in the courtrooms.
Following the Court's ruling, Asmeta told Reuters that she was shocked and disappointed.
"Why does covering my hair stop my client from the right to a free trial?" she told Reuters. "My clients are not children. If they choose me as their lawyer, with my veil, then it is their choice."
As per Reuters, there was no law that expressly bars the wearing of a hijab or a headscarf by women in the courtroom.
Initially, Asmeta had challenged the rule set by the Bar Council of Lille terming it targeted and discriminatory. However, she lost the battle in 2020 in an appeal and further went before the Apex Court.
In the year 2010, France had passed a law banning wearing of veils covering the face in public. The said law was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in the year 2014. However, this law does not extend to hijab, since hijab does not cover the whole face.
In 2021, the French Senate had voted to ban wearing hijab in public by girls under the age of 18 years.
In January this year, the French senate voted in favour of banning the wearing of the hijab and other "ostensible religious symbols" in sports competitions.
As per Reuters, more than a dozen lawyers from Paris have written an open letter asking for a nationwide rule against the wearing of hijab in the Courts.
"We, lawyers, do not want a communitarian and obscurantist judiciary," they wrote in the French publication, Marianne as per Reuters.