New Delhi: In an important ruling on use of amplifying devices for religious purposes, the Allahabad High Court on Friday held that use of loudspeakers is not an integral part of Azaan or necessary for making Azaan effective since other citizens have a right to not hear what they do not want.
"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...No one has got the right to make other persons captive listeners," said the High Court bench headed by Justice Shashi Kant Gupta.
The court held that there is no constitutional protection to use of loudspeakers for Azaan since "no person has right to take away the right of others" and "use of microphones certainly takes away the right of the citizens to speak with others, their right to read or think or the right to sleep."
The bench said that Azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of Azan through loud-speakers 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.
"Thus, 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," it underscored.
The bench was dealing with a clutch of petitions, filed by Lok Sabha MP Afzal Ansari, Congress leader and senior advocate Salman Khurshid and another senior lawyer SWA Qadri.
The chief prayer was that Muslims in the districts Ghazipur and Farrukhabad, should be permitted to recite Azaan through Muezzin by using sound amplifying devices and the restrictions imposed by the administrations should be declared wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional since they do not, in any way, violate the guidelines issued for the containment of the pandemic.
It was also pointed out that the practice of opening the fast by the sound of the Azaan during Ramzan is an Islamic tradition prevailing since the time immemorial. They further said that no religious congregation was taking place in mosques.
The bench, however, noted that while a Muezzin or an Imam can be allowed to recite Azaan from the minarets of the mosques through human voice, use of loudspeakers cannot be permitted.
The Court asserted there is no such religious order which prescribes that Azaan can be recited only through loud-speakers or by any amplifiers.
"The use of microphone is a practice developed by someone and not by the Prophet or his main disciples, and which was not there in the past, and that the microphone is of recent origin and accordingly it could not be said that the use of microphone and loud-speaker is essential and integral part of the Azaan," added the bench.
It added: "Traditionally and according to the religious order, Azaan has to be recited by the Imam or the person in-charge of the mosques through their own voice. Right to religion, by no stretch of imagination, ought to be practised, professed and propagated saying that microphone has become an essential part of the religion."
The High Court this held the restrictions on use of loudspeakers as valid and reasonable.
"It is held that Azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation of Azaan through loud-speakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion," concluded the court.