Azaan on loudspeakers does not violate fundamental rights of people of other faiths: Karnataka HC

The Court's observations come at a time when there have been repeated instances of right-wing fundamentalists targeting the Muslim call to prayer

Karnataka HC

On August 22, 2022, the Karnataka High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the contents of Azaan (call for prayers in Islam). The PIL had alleged that it hurts the sentiments of believers of other faiths. The court observed that Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution embody the principle of “religious tolerance” which are a characteristic of Indian civilization, reported LiveLaw.

A division bench of Karnataka High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty reportedly said, “Contention that the contents of Azaan violate the fundamental rights guaranteed to the petitioner as well as persons of other faith cannot be accepted.”

Seeking a direction to the authorities to stop mosques / masjids in the state from using the contents of the Azaan through loudspeakers, Advocate Manjunath S. Halawar appearing for petitioner Chandrashekhar R, submitted that though Azaan is an essential religious practice of Muslims, the words “Allahu Akbar” (translation: Allah is the greatest) used in Azaan hurts the religious beliefs of others.

As Advocate Halawar continued to read out the plea raising objections with respect to other words from the Azaan, LiveLaw reported that the bench interrupted him and asked, “Do not violate your own fundamental rights, you have said by hearing these words your right is violated so why should you read it?”

According to LiveLaw, the bench further observed, “Article 25(1) of the Constitution of India, confers the Fundamental Rights on all persons to freely profess, practice and propagate their own religion. However, this right is not an absolute right but is subject to restrictions on the grounds of public order, morality and health as well as subject to other provisions in part 3 of the Constitution of India.” It also said, “Undoubtedly the petitioner as well believers of other faiths have the Right to practise their religion. Azaan is a call to muslims to offer prayers. It is the case the petitioner himself as pleaded in para 6 (b) of the writ petition, that Azaan is an essential religious practise of the persons belonging to Islam…It is also pertinent to note that it is not the case of the petitioner himself that his fundamental right guaranteed under Article 25 is being infringed in any manner by offering Azaan, through loudspeakers or PA system or its contents violate the fundamental right guaranteed to petitioner or persons belonging to other faith.”

However, the Court directed the authorities to ensure that loudspeakers, PA system and sound producing instruments are not permitted above the permissible decibel from 10 P.M to 6 A.M. It further directed the authorities to follow the directions issued by the High Court on June 17 to carry out a drive to prevent the misuse of loudspeakers and PA systems. A compliance report is to be filed within eight weeks.

This order is significant given how in recent times, multiple objections have been raised against azaans, usually under the guise of fighting noise pollution. The matters have gone to court, and political parties have also tried to stir communal passions in a bid to polarise people and cultivate their respective vote banks. Memories of Azaan vs Hanuman Chalisa campaigns are still fresh. And while concerns about noise pollution should not be taken lightly, blatant Islamophobia should not be encouraged either. This PIL was openly communal, and by dismissing it, the court has upheld the secular values of the country.



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