Gujarat HC on plea banning loudspeakers for Azaan: “Faith and practice going on years together”

The PIL filed in the High Court had urged for banning the use of loudspeakers for Azaan prayers citing noise pollution and public disturbance; Chief Justice Sunita Aggarwal termed it to be a "wholly misconceived PIL”, questions lack of disturbance due to bells and drums in temples

On November 28, the Gujarat High Court came down harshly upon the petitioner who had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which sought a ban on the use of loudspeakers in mosques for Azaan payers. While dismissing the said petition, the bench of Chief Justice Sunita Aggarwal and Justice Aniruddha P. Mayee termed it a “wholly misconceived PIL.”

As per a report of LiveLaw, the petitioner had filed a plea in the High Court urging a ban on the use of loudspeakers during various times of the day for the Islamic call to prayer.

Arguments during the hearing:

While hearing the matter, CJ Sunita Aggarwal questioned the petitioner whether other religious practices, such playing music during puja or bhajan in temples, did not cause similar public disturbance and disruption owing to noise pollution. The CJ underlined that noise pollution is a scientific matter and asked the petitioner’s counsel to present proof of the purported noise pollution brought on by Azaan, including specifics on decibel levels, as per the LiveLaw report. Meanwhile, the CJ also pointed out that the Islamic prayer of Azaan is only announced for a period of five minutes.

“For how many minutes the azaan goes on? Not less than 5 minutes, where is the question of noise pollution? Show us the decibels. Technically how many decibels of noise [is caused by] azaan?” CJ Aggarwal stated, as per the report of LiveLaw.

In response to the question put forth by the bench, the counsel for the petitioner asserted that the announcement of Azaan exceeded the decibel limit.

To the aforementioned claim, CJ Sunita Aggarwal critically retorted by bringing up the noise pollution created by the usage of a DJ and stated, “Your DJ creates a lot of pollution. We are not entertaining this kind of PIL.

She further remarked that the practice of Azaan has been going on for years and noted “It is a faith and practice going on years together and it is a moment of only 5-10 minutes. Azaan goes on for less than 10 minutes.”

As per the report of LiveLaw, the petitioner’s counsel then attempted to strengthen their case by arguing that Azaan took place multiple times, including early morning and during the day. The same argument was shot down by CJ Sunita Aggarwal who opined that even in temples “the morning aarti with those drums and music starts early in the morning”.

Further pressing on the bells and drums used in temples, CJ asked the petitioner “That doesn’t cause noise to anyone? Can you say that the noise of the ghanta and ghadiyal remains in the temple premises only? It doesn’t percolate out of the premises?”

The CJ then added, “Mr. Counsel, in 10 minutes a person is making Azaan. How much pollution is caused in that 10 minutes please tell us. Noise pollution is a scientific issue. Since you say noise pollution, if it is scientifically placed before the court, how many decibels is raised?” If there is a scientific method of assessment of pollution of noise, can you argue as per that scientific assessment, this 10 minutes of Azaan is causing noise pollution?”

The Court was dismayed and disappointed to learn that the writ petition, which alleged that Azaan was to blame for the noise pollution, had neglected to include a scientific evaluation of the extent of the noise pollution generated by the prayer offerings while urging for ban on the use of loudspeakers decrying noise pollution.

The bench stated, “If you can argue this, we will permit you. But you are not arguing this. You have not made out any base in the writ petition. Where is the pleading with regard to the decibels? Where is the pleading with regard to the scientific method of assessment of noise pollution in the area?”

The order of the Court

The High Court bench dictated its order and held that it did not find any ground in the petition filed against Azaan as the court failed to understand how the recitation of Azaan through loudspeaker could reach the decibel level required to create noise pollution. The Chief Justice stated, “We fail to understand as to how the human voice making Azaan through loudspeaker in the morning could achieve the decibel [level] to the extent of creating noise pollution causing health hazards to the public at large. The measurements/assessment of noise pollution with the raising of decibel of sound is a scientific method wherein the sound created by a particular instrument etc can be measured to see that the sound caused by it is reaching beyond decibel permissible limit. No such foundation has been laid in the petition to demonstrate that noise created by Azaan for minutes at a stretch at different hours of the day would raise the level of the sound to cause noise pollution. We therefore do not find any ground.

Based on the information in the record, the Chief Justice observed that the remaining pleas were not supported by any evidence. Notably, the counsel interrupted the CJ as she was dictating the judgment, citing an Allahabad High Court ruling to support the petitioner’s claim that police approval was required. However, as per the LiveLaw report, the CJ promptly intervened, noting that judgments from the Allahabad High Court are not legally binding on their jurisdiction.



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