Saharshrarchi Uma Pandey and Ritansha Singhal; both Second year students of the Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur, discuss the prohibition on the use of loudspeakers in recital of “Azaan”.

A CRITICAL ANALYSIS

On 15th May, 2020, the Division bench of the Allahabad High Court comprising Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar ruled that the call of prayer or ‘Azaan’ cannot be made through loudspeakers or any of such sound amplifying tools.[1] However, the court allowed the recital of ‘Azaan’ by the muezzin from the minarets of mosques without using any sound amplifying devices.[2]

FACTS:

The issue arose on April 24, 2020, when the local district administration in the Ghazipur District, (member part of the Varanasi Division) issued a prohibitory circular concerning ‘Azaan’.[3] Through this circular, the authorities barred the recital of ‘Azaan’ within the district premises and mandated that if anyone goes against such directive, they shall be booked under the National Security Act, 1980.[4]

In light of this, several Public Interest Litigation’s were filed in the Allahabad High Court, wherein, Counsel Syed Safdar Ali led the petitioners.

ARGUMENTS OF PETITIONERS:

The Petitioner contended that as the holy month of ‘Ramzana’ was being observed, the opening and the closing of the fast was mandatorily marked by the sound of the ‘Azaan’ which was an Islamic tradition, since the time of the Great Prophet.[5]

It was further pleaded that the recital of ‘Azaan’ was not a congressional practice but was simply an act of recitation by a single individual, calling the believer to offer Namaz at their homes and therefore, did not violate any of the conditions of the prevailing lockdown.Hence, the recital of ‘Azaan’ through loudspeakers, five times a day; is part of religious rights guaranteed under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.[6]

ARGUMENTS OF THE STATE:

At the behest, a counter affidavit was filed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Shri Avanish Awasthi. The affidavit stated that Ghazipur district has been declared as a ‘hotspot area’ in light of the COVID19 and certain restrictions have been imposed, based on the directive guidelines of the Union Home Ministry. As ‘Azaan’ is a call for prayer, the district administration has issued this order to restrict the congregation of people, thwarting the probability of subsequent spread of the virus.[7]

JUDGEMENT:

Taking into consideration the arguments of the contesting parties, the High Court, subsequently ruled that; ‘Azaan’ or the call of prayer “may be an essential and integral part of Islamic Traditions” but the use of loudspeakers and sound amplifiers can not be regarded as an “essential and integral part of Islam”. The Court said that the protection under Article 25[8] of the Indian Constitution is available to all the concerned but is otherwise subjected to the restrictions that might be imposed to safeguard public order, morality and health. Keeping into light the global health emergency caused by COVID19, the Court referred this as an exceptional circumstance wherein, all the personnel’s have an obligation and thus, are necessitated to pay their contributions and sacrifices, as nonetheless an oblation. The High Court however, has allowed the ‘Azaan’ to be carried out by the muezzin from the minarets of mosques through human voice.[9]

Moreover, the Court herein highlighted that the petitioners have not pleaded or even brought into record the fact that they sought permission from the district authorities, regarding their use of sound amplifiers; as mandated by the law on noise pollution under the Rule 5 of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.[10] Hence, the use of the same has been rendered illegal and any such direction cannot be issued through the Court.[11]

CASE LAWS REFERRED:

The Court referred to a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court; Church of God (Full Gospel) v. K.K.R. Majestic,[12] wherein, the Apex Court held that, no religious sect can claim the use of loudspeaker or similar instruments for prayers, festivities or worship as an “integral and essential part” of their religious philosophy, protected under Article 25.

The Court also referred to a Culcutta High Court decision in Moulana Mufti Syed Mohammed Noorur Rehman Barkati v. State of West Bengal,[13] wherein, the court responded to several petitions which were filed to restrict the early morning and late night call of ‘Azaan’. The Court ruled that the ‘Azaan’ or the call of prayer is an “essential and integral part of Islam”, however, use of loudspeakers, cannot be considered as an essential practice. The Court thus, upheld the Noise Pollution Rules.

RIGHT TO SLEEP PEACEFULLY IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

In the Ramlila Maidan Incident (In Re),[14] the Supreme Court ruled that the right to a safe and sound sleep would be regarded as an integral part of Article 21[15] of the Constitution of India and is thus, a Fundamental Right of all beings. The Apex Court iterated, “ Sleep is essential for a human being to maintain the delicate balance of health, necessary for its very existence and survival. Sleep is, therefore, a fundamental requirement without which the existence of life would be in peril. To disturb sleep, therefore, would amount to torture, which would amount to a violation of human right.”[16] Accordingly, use of loudspeakers and such sound amplifying devices must be in conformity with the inherent, Fundamental Rights of all.

Thus, the Court harmoniously dealt with the issue pertaining to the Muslim Personal Law, balancing the competing and conflicting interests of the people on just and conscientious terms; taking into consideration the imperative needs of the time. Besides, this affair demands more of mutual respect, civic sense and tolerance than it being slammed as a religious issue.[17]


Saharshrarchi Uma Pandey and Ritansha Singhal are Second Year Law Students at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur (MNLU-N)


[1]Afzal Ansari v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC All 592.

[2]Riyaz Khan, “Why Allahabad High Court’s Ruling On ‘Azaan’ Means Much to Muslims”, The Quint, (05.06.2020, 08:55 PM), https://www.thequint.com/voices/blogs/indian-muslims-azaan-islamic-prayer-mosques-loudspeakers-allahabad-high-court-ruling.

[3]Jitendra Sarin, “Allow Azaan, Ghazipur MP writes to Allahabad HC CJ”, Hindustan Times, (05.06.2020, 09:00 PM), https://www.hindustantimes.com/lucknow/allow-azaan-ghazipur-mp-writes-to-allahabad-hc-cj/story-lwCQPFo9MuLTFHQk8b3LgP.html.

[4]National Security Act 1980.

[5]Utkarsh Anand, “‘Prophet Never Said So’: Allahabad HC’s No to Azaan on Loudspeakers, Only Human Voice Allowed”, (05.06.2020, 09:30 PM), https://www.news18.com/news/india/neither-started-by-prophet-nor-disciples-allahabad-hcs-no-to-azaan-on-loudspeakers-only-human-voice-allowed-2621919.html

[6]Allahabad HC Permits Reciting Of Azan By Muezzin But No Loudspeakers”, India legal live, (05.06.2020, 09:00 PM), https://www.indialegallive.com/constitutional-law-news/courts-news/allahabad-hc-permits-reciting-of-azan-by-muezzin-but-no-loudspeakers-99477.

[7]Allahabad HC Permits ‘Azaan’ from Mosques Without Loudspeakers”,  The Quint, (17.05.2020, 05:23 PM)), https://www.thequint.com/news/india/allahabad-hc-permits-azaan-from-mosques-without-loudspeakers.

[8]INDIAN CONST. art 25, S 1. 

[9]Azaan integral to Islam, not use of loudspeakers’,  says Allahabad High Court”, The Scroll, (17.05.2020, 03:23 PM), https://scroll.in/latest/962103/azaan-integral-to-islam-not-use-of-loudspeakers-says-allahabad-high-court.

[10]The Noise Pollution (Regulation And Control) Rules, 2000 S 5.

Restrictions on the use of loudspeakers/public address system:

1. A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority.

2 .A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m.) except in closed premises for communication within, e.g. auditoria, conference rooms, community and banquet halls.

3 .Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (2), the State Government may, subject to such terms and conditions as are necessary to reduce noise pollution, permit use of loudspeakers or public address systems during night hours (between 10.00 p.m. to 12.00 midnight) on or during any cultural or religious occasion of a limited duration not exceeding 15 days in all during a calendar year.”

[11]Namita Bajpai, “No azaan on loudspeakers, only human voice allowed: Allahabad High Court”, New Indian Express, (17.05.2020, 06:45 PM), https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/may/15/no-azaan-on-loudspeakers-only-human-voice-allowed-allahabad-high-court-2143731.html.

[12]Church of God [Full Gospel] in India v. KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association, AIR 2000 SC 2773.

[13]Moulana Mufti Syed Mohammed Noorur Rehman Barkati v. State of West Bengal, 1998 SCC OnLine Cal 73.

[14]Re-Ramlila Maidan Incident Dt … vs Home Secretary And Ors, (2012)5 S.C.C. 125.

[15]INDIAN CONST. art 21.

[16]Dhananjay Mahapatra, “Right to sleep a fundamental right, says Supreme Court”, Times of India (05.06.2020,06:56 PM), http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12025358.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.

[17]Abhinav Verma, #WhatLawSays: Is it legal to use loudspeakers in religious places?,THE HINDUSTAN TIMES,(June 6, 2020,12:28PM), https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/whatlawsays-is-it-legal-to-use-loudspeakers-in-religious-places/story-wWmUwoQL4KQZndgSzh9O9N.html.

 

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.

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