The Allahabad High Court has held that azaan, or the Islamic call to ritual prayer, can be recited by a muezzin from minarets of the mosques by human voice only without using any amplifying device or loudspeakers.
The court added that such recitation by human voice cannot be hindered under the pretext of violation of the guidelines issued by the state government to contain the spread of coronavirus.
It also said that one can’t use a loudspeaker for azaan without prior permission of district administration in accordance with the law.
“We are of the opinion that azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but 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, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions in part III of the Constitution,” the bench ruled.
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“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 added.
However, the court shot down the state government’s contention that its recitation by human voice was violative of any provision of law.
“The government had not been able to explain as to how the recitation of azaan merely through human voice can be violative of any provision of law or any guidelines issued in view of Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.
The Bench, however, kept it open for petitioner to approach the district administration for permission to use loudspeaker for azaan. It added that one can’t use loudspeakers for azaan or for any other purpose without prior permission of district administration.
The bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar thus disposed of a PIL filed by BSP MP from Ghazipur, Afzal Ansari, seeking lifting of ban on azaan from mosques in Ghazipur.
The petitioner’s plea was that there is 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 is illegal.
The state government’s contention, the petitioner argued, was that religious activity of any religious group through loudspeaker has been restricted in the entire Uttar Pradesh in view of the guidelines of lockdown.
Further, according to the state government , the Ghazipur district has been declared as hotspot area. Since azaan is a call for prayer on loudspeaker, hence it has been restricted in Ghazipur.
The state government, in its affidavit, has also submitted a list of instances which have been filed disclosing how people assembled in mosques in Ghazipur following a call through azaan and administration had a tough time to control the situation.
Azaan is recited by a ‘muezzin’, a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque at prescribed times of the day.