Holding that azaan (call to prayer) “may be an essential and integral part of Islam”, the Allahabad High Court Friday said its recitation “through loudspeakers 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 of the Constitution of India, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions” of Part III of the Constitution.
Ruling on pleas by Ghazipur MP Afzal Ansari, Congress leader Salman Khurshid and senior advocate S Wasim A Qadri, who challenged orders of the Ghazipur, Farrukhabad and Hathras administrations directing mosques to stop recitation of azaan through loudspeakers in view of the Covid-19 guidelines, a division bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar said azaan can be recited by the muezzin from the mosque minarets “by human voice without using any amplifying device and the administration is directed not to cause hindrance… unless such guidelines are being violated”.
But the bench made it clear that “under no circumstances sound amplifying devices can be permitted to be used between 10.00 pm to 6.00 am by the district administrations. the petitioners have failed to bring on record or even plead that they sought any such permission for the use of sound amplifying devices, for recital of Azan from their respective mosques and, therefore, their use without such permission would be illegal and cannot be accorded approval by this Court. However, in case any such application is filed before the concerned authorities, that may be dealt with in accordance with law including Noise Pollution Rules”.
In his petition, Ansari had prayed that fundamental right to religion of the people at Ghazipur may be protected and the state administration be directed to permit recitation of the azaan by only one person from respective mosques of Ghazipur since it does not violate any of the directives issued for controlling the threat of the pandemic spread. Khurshid had stated that recitation of azaan is an integral part of Islam and in no way undermines the society’s collective response to the pandemic.
In response, the Uttar Pradesh government had filed a counter-affidavit contending that azaan is a call for congregation to offer prayers at the mosque and, therefore, in violation of the guidelines for containing the pandemic.
The bench directed the Registrar General to forward a copy of the judgment to the UP Chief Secretary for onward circulation to all DMs.
Contacted by The Indian Express, Additional Advocate General Manish Goel, who represented the state, said a decision on challenging the order will be taken by the state Law Department. “I will not be able to comment on this at the moment,” he said.
The petitioners’ counsel, Syed Safdar Ali Kazmi, said the judgment was in their favour and they were content with it. “We wanted permission for azaan, which the honourable court has granted,” Kazmi said.