Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench of Alok Aradhe CJ., and S. Viswajith Shetty, J., held that azan or the contents of azan does not violate fundamental rights of petitioner of any person from a different faith. The use of loudspeakers, however, must be ensured to be within permissible limits from 10pm to 6 am in accordance with law.
The petitioner is a resident of Bengaluru who filed the petition seeking writ of mandamus directing State and State Police to stop the mosques or masjids in the State of Karnataka from using the objectionable words through loudspeakers while calling azan or adhan prayer 5 times in a day throughout the 365 days in a year. He also sought to take steps regarding seizure and confiscation of loudspeakers, amplifiers and such other equipment installed in mosques/masjids.
Counsel for petitioner submitted that the grievance of petitioner is that calling of Azan or Adhan, though is an essential religious practice of Muslims, however the contents of the Azan or Adhan are hurting the believers of other religious faiths.
The Court noted that Right to practice religion is not an absolute right but, is subject to restrictions on the grounds of public order, morality and health as well as other rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution. Article 25 and 26 embodies the principle of religious toleration which is a characteristic of Indian civilization.
The Court further noted that azan/adhan is a call to offer prayer and does not violate fundamental rights guaranteed to the petitioner as well as persons of other faith. However, the use of loudspeakers, public address systems and sound processing instruments is governed by the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 read with Section 37 of Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
Thus, the Court directed Respondents 1-4 to ensure that the loudspeakers, public address systems, sound processing instruments and other musical instruments shall not be permitted to be used above permissible decibel during night from 10pm to 6 am in the morning.
[Chandrashekar R v. State of Karnataka, WP No. 10473 of 2022, decided on 22-08-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Manjunath S Halawar, Advocate, for the Petitioner;
Additional Government Advocate SS Mahendra, Advocate, for the State.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.