Azan ban in three U.P. districts overturned

Petitioners welcome Allahabad High Court order; loudspeaker use a grey area

Published - May 15, 2020 11:58 pm IST - Ghaziabad

The Allahabad High Court on Friday allowed azan in three districts of Uttar Pradesh — Ghazipur, Hathras and Farrukhabad — where it had been stopped by the district administration citing the Home Ministry’s lockdown rules.

In an order passed 10 days after the Bench of Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar reserved judgment after hearing arguments of the petitioners and State counsel via videoconferencing, the judges said, “Azan can be recited by a muezzin from minarets of the mosques by human voice without using any amplifying device and such recitation cannot be hindered with under the pretext of violation of the guidelines issued by the state, to contain the pandemic — COVID-19.”

The Bench gave its ruling on a bunch of pleas, including those of former Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Lok Sabha member from Ghazipur, Afzal Ansari, among others.

Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar said he would comply with the High Court order.

‘Act against DMs’

Former Aligarh MLA Zamirullah, who petitioned on behalf of the residents of Hathras, said had the Uttar Pradesh government wanted, it would have banned azan across the State.

“It was the decision of a few District Magistrates who had let down the State government and action should be taken against them. The HC judgment has vindicated our faith in the judiciary and the Ganga-Jamuni tradition of the country,” he said.

Whether loudspeakers will be allowed inside mosques or not is still open to interpretation. The court held that azan may be an integral and essential part of Islam but its recitation through loudspeakers or other sound-amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of religion, warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution. “Thus, under no circumstances sound amplifying devices can be permitted to be used between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. by the district administrations,” stated the order.

The judges noted the petitioners didn’t plead for use of such devices for azan and went on to say that “until and unless there is a licence/permission from the authorities concerned under the Noise Pollution Rules, under no circumstances azan can be recited through sound amplifying devices.”

Sound amplifiers

Safdar Ali Kazmi, counsel for Mr. Ansari, the petitioner and Ghazipur MP, said it was a “positive” order.

“We didn’t bring up the issue of sound-amplifying devices in the petition because the district administration had put a blanket ban on azan in the garb of lockdown rules. The judgment, however, clarified both the points. One, the lockdown rules could not be used to prevent azan and those mosques which have permission to use sound-amplifying devices would continue to do so,” he said.

Mr. Kazmi said there could be some mosques which have loudspeaker permission for five times while there could be others that have permission for only four as fajr falls in the early hours that come in the silent zone of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. as per Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

The order, however, bars loudspeakers, even if allowed, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“Under no circumstances, loudspeakers or any sound amplifier could be used between 12 midnight and 6 a.m,” stated the order.

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