The High Court of Karnataka on Monday declined to accept a contention that uttering Azan (a call to Muslims to pray) in the mosque through the loudspeakers violates the fundamental right guaranteed to the believers of other religious faiths.
A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty passed the order on a PIL petition, filed by Chandrashekhar R., a resident of Bengaluru.
The petitioner had sought a direction to the authorities to stop the use of loudspeakers in mosques for the purpose of Azan while contending that the words used on Azan hurts the sentiments of people belonging to other religions.
The petitioner counsel said that words like ‘Allah Hu Akbar’, which means “Allah is the greatest”, etc., hurts the sentiments of people of other faiths when uttered using loudspeakers.
“The Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India embodies the principles of religious toleration, which is characteristic of Indian civilisation. The Article 25 confers the fundamental right on persons to freely profess, practise and propagate their own religion. However, the aforesaid right is not an absolute right but is subject to the restrictions on the ground of public order, morality, health as well as subject to other provisions of the Constitution,” the bench observed in its brief order.
Noticing that the petitioner himself has stated in the petition that Azan is an essential religious practice of the persons belonging to Islam, the bench said that petitioner as well as believers of other faiths have the right to practise their religion. “However, the contention that the contents of Azan violate the fundamental right guaranteed to the petitioner as well the persons of other faith cannot be accepted.,” the bench observed
Act against illegal use
However, the bench directed the authorities of the State government to ensure that loudspeakers, public address systems and sound-producing instruments should not be permitted to be used in violation of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 while observing that religious practices like Azan are not absolute right but are subjected to restrictions in the Constitution.
The bench, while disposing of the petition, also directed the authorities to implement the court’s directions, issued in a batch of petitions complaining about illegal use of loudspeakers in the places of religious institutions, including the direction to conduct drivers to prevent misuse of loudspeakers and public address system.