Allahabad HC nod to ‘azaan’ sans loudspeakers
The Allahabad high court on Friday allowed ‘azaan’ (call to prayer) from mosques but didn’t permit the use of loudspeakers without permission from the district administration.
The court said ‘azaan’ is an integral part of Islam but loudspeakers weren’t part of the religion. With this observation, the bench of justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar disposed of a public interest litigation filed by the BSP MP from Ghazipur, Afzal Ansari, seeking the lifting of a ban on ‘azaan’ at mosques in Ghazipur.
“We are of the considered opinion that azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of azaan through loudspeakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion warranting protection of the fundamental rights 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 of India,” the bench said.
“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 bench observed.
Ansari had said in his petition there was no specific order in the Central or state government’s guidelines to prohibit ‘azaan’ from mosques, and the arbitrary decision by Ghazipur’s district administration to ban the call to prayer was illegal.
The state government contended that religious activity by any group using loudspeakers had been restricted across Uttar Pradesh in view of the guidelines for the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
The government also said that since Ghazipur district has been declared a0 Coronavirus hot spot, restrictions were imposed in the area in line with guidelines issued by Union home ministry on March 24.
The state government, in its affidavit, submitted a list of instances of people assembling at mosques in Ghazipur following ‘azaan’, and how the administration faced difficulties in controlling the situation.
In the petition filed on April 28, Ansari had alleged that ‘azaan’ was suddenly prohibited at mosques by the administration of Ghazipur and police. He further said that if anyone recited the ‘azaan’, the person would be booked under the National Security Act.