LUCKNOW: In a major ruling, Allahabad High Court allowed azaan in mosques without using any amplifier or loudspeaker.
The court, while responding to a batch of PILs and letter petitions challenging the Ghazipur district administration’s restrictions on recital of azaan during COVID-19 lockdown, ruled on Friday that azaan could be recited by a muezzin from minarets of the mosques but without using loudspeakers.
Cancelling the order issued by Ghazipur district magistrate, the court added that such recitation by human voice could not be hindered under the pretext of violation of the guidelines issued by the state government to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The court made the use of loudspeaker conditional saying that one could not use a loudspeaker for azaan without prior permission of district administration in accordance with the law and norms of noise pollution.
Passing the order, the double judge bench, comprising Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Ajit Kumar said: “We are of the opinion that azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but its recitation through loud¬speakers or other sound-amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the
religion warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions in part III of the Constitution.”
The bench added: “It cannot be said that a citizen should be coerced to hear anything which he does not like or which he does not require since it amounts to taking away the fundamental right of other persons.”
The PILs were filed by former Union Law Minister Salman Khursheed and senior advocate S Wasim A Qadri besides, BSP MP Afzal Ansari. “Unless and until there is a licence permission from the authorities concerned under the noise pollution rules, under no circumstances, azaan can be recited through any sound-amplifying devices. In case azaan is being recited through aforesaid means, it will be violative of provisions contained under the Noise Pollution Rules and strict action is liable to be taken against the persons violating such rules.”
The Bench, however, kept it open for the petitioner to approach the district administration for permission to use the loudspeaker for azaan. The petitioners had contended that there was no specific order in the central or state government guidelines to prohibit the recitation of azaan from the mosques. Therefore, the arbitrary decision taken by the district administration of Ghazipur to ban the prayer was illegal.
The state government’s contention, the petitioner argued, was that religious activity of any group through loudspeaker was restricted in the entire state in the wake of lockdown guidelines. Further, according to the state government, the Ghazipur district has been declared as a hotspot area. Since azaan was a call for prayer on loudspeaker, hence it was restricted in Ghazipur.
The state government, in its affidavit, had also submitted a list of instances which were filed disclosing how people assembled in mosques in Ghazipur following a call through azaan and administration had a tough time to control the situation.