The Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad in a landmark judgement on 15.05.2020 held that use of loudspeakers is not an integral part of Azan or necessary for making Azan effective since other citizens have a right to not hear what they do not want. The Hon’ble High Court allowed Muezzin from minarets of Mosques to recite Azan in human voice but without the use of amplifying devices or microphones.
The judgement was passed in response to a set of petitions filed and accumulated together as Civil Misc. Writ Petition (PIL) No. 570 of 2020.
Mr. Syed Safdar Ali Kazmi and Mr. Fazal Hasnain, counsels for the Petitioners prayed to the Hon’ble High Court that Muslims in the districts of Ghazipur and Farrukhabad, may be permitted to recite Azan through Muezzin by using sound amplifying devices. Stating that Azan was not a congressional practice but an act of recitation by an individual, calling the believers to offer Namaz at their homes, the Petitioners further submitted that it does not violate any existing guidelines of the lockdown.
The Petitioners accused the local administration under the District Magistrate, Ghazipur of illegally restraining all the Mosques within the district from reciting Azan. The Petitioners also submitted that ban of reciting Azan through sound amplifying devices was violative of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution since Azan is an essential religious practice and is for the welfare of a particular religious community.
The Counter Affidavit filed on behalf of the State by Mr. Avinash Kumar Awasthi, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Uttar Pradesh, referred to various orders and guidelines passed by the State and Central Government in view of the pandemic and stated that Azan was a call for congregation of prayers at the Mosque and was therefore violative of the various guidelines and orders passed by the Government. The Counter Affidavit also informed the Hon’ble High Court that as per a meeting convened on 24.03.2020 by the District Magistrate of Ghazipur which was attended by various religious leaders and distinguished citizens, it was agreed that no religious activities would be taking place during the lockdown at any public place and the use of amplifying devices/ microphones/ speakers would thereby be prohibited for the same.
Quoting Article 25 of the Constitution and subsequently referring to various judgements of the Calcutta High Court and the Apex Court, the division bench of the Hon’ble High Court comprising of Justice Shashi Kant Gupta and Justice Ajit Kumar in its judgement stated that microphones were developed by humans and not by Prophet and thus microphones or amplifying devices cannot be contended to be an integral part of Islam. Further referring to the various hazardous effects that amplifying devices have on the environment as well as on human body, it was both traditional and religious for Imams to recite Azan but without the use of microphones.
The division bench further referring to a citizen’s right to sleep, read, leisure, right not to hear and the right to remain silent, stated that the use of microphones takes away these rights from citizens and moreover may also have serious impact on heart patients or patients suffering from nervous disorders.
The division bench thus quoted as follows, “Azan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of Azan 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 of India.”
The Hon’ble Coram then stated Rule No. 5 of the Noise Pollution Rules and prohibited the use of any public address systems/ loudspeakers by anyone except after taking permission by the concerned authority.
Also stating that since Mr. Manish Goyal, Additional Advocate General and counsel for the State was unable to explain that how the recitation of Azan by a single individual was violative of Government’s guidelines during the lockdown, the Hon’ble High Court in its judgement allowed Azan to be recited by Muezzin from minarets of Mosques by human voice without the use of amplifying devices.