The Karnataka State Board of Auqaf has prohibited the use of loudspeakers between 10 PM and 6 AM during azan for all mosques and dargahs in the state. In a circular, the Board said the decision to bar the use of loudspeakers was taken to prevent noise pollution.
The circular states, “It is observed that increasing ambient noise level around many masjids and dargahs due to generator sets, loudspeakers and public address systems have deleterious effects on human health and the psychological well-being of the people. With the objective of maintaining the ambient standards of noise, The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 are in force. Loudspeakers shall not be used in the night time which shall mean from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.”
Further underlining the “silence zones”, the circular said any violation would be liable for a penalty.
“The area comprising not less than 100 m around hospitals, educational institutions and courts have been declared as ‘silence zones’. Whoever uses any sound amplifier, or burst sound-emitting firecrackers, uses a loudspeaker or public address system in the silence zone is liable for penalty under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” it said.
The Board issued the following set of instructions to all the managements of masjids and dargahs for the strictest compliance:
1. Loudspeakers shall not be used from 10 PM onwards up to 6 AM
2. Loudspeakers used during the day shall be as per the ambient air quality standards, with respect to noise
3. Loudspeakers shall be used only for azan and important announcements such as death, the timing of burial, the sighting of the moon etc
4. Congregational Salat, Juma Qutba, Bayans, religious, socio-cultural and knowledge-based-functions shall be held with speakers installed in the religious premises
5. Noise-governing apparatus may be installed in the institution in consultation with the local environment officers
6. The management of the institutions shall train the muezzin (the person who gives the call to prayer at a mosque) to operate the amplifier within the prescribed limit
7. No sound-emitting firecrackers shall be burnt in or around the masjid and dargahs at any occasion
8. The incidence or carrying on in or upon, any premises of any trade, avocation or operation or process resulting in or attended with noise
9. Open spaces of the masjid and dargahs shall be used for the plantation of fruit-bearing shady trees and ornamental plants. Drinking water tanks may be constructed for animals and birds if possible
10. Clean and hygienic atmosphere shall be maintained
11. Discourage beggary in religious premises, instead, counselling and philanthropic measures may be taken at the institution level.
However, the order has not gone down well with the SDPI, which had lambasted the Waqf board for overstepping its jurisdiction. Abdul Hannan, SDPI state president, said the board had nothing to do with the Quran, namaz and the azan. He said the board should instead deal with waqf properties, those that have been encroached on by the government, private sector and politicians.
Allahabad University V-C not as lucky as Karnataka residents
Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor Prof Sangita Srivastava of the Allahabad University has written to the district magistrate, complaining about the use of loudpseakers during azan from a nearby mosque. She said her “sleep is disturbed due to loud azan” every morning.
Referring to an Allahabad High Court judgment, Srivastava said action be taken to prevent the concerned mosque from using loudspeaker for azan.
In her letter, Srivastava said, “Every day in the morning at about 5.30 AM, my sleep is disturbed due to loud azan on the mike by the Maulvi in the surrounding mosque. The sleep so disturbed does not resume even after trying very hard. This also results in a headache, throughout the day, causing losses in work hours (sic).”
“Your freedom ends where my nose begins,” writes Srivastava adding, “I am not against any religion, caste or creed, they may perform the Azan without the mike so that others are not disturbed. Even before Eid, they announce Sehri on the mike at 4.00 AM. This practice also creates a disturbance to other people.”
In January 2020, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that no religion advocates the use of loudspeaker for worship. The petitioner had challenged an administrative order in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh where the use of loudspeaker for azan had been banned.
The high court had said, “No religion prescribes that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by the beating of drums If there is such a practice, it should not adversely affect rights of the others, including that of not being disturbed.”
The high court had cited a Supreme Court judgment of 2000 which had ruled that the freedom to practice religion was subject to public order, morality and health.
In a similar case, singer Sonu Nigam had objected to the use of a loudspeaker for azan. In 2017, Sonu Nigam had stirred up a row on social media when he put out a Twitter post calling morning azan “forced religiousness”.
“God bless everyone. I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the azan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India?” Sonu Nigam had tweeted in April 2017.
As he received flak for his tweet and opinion remained divided, a Muslim cleric issued a fatwa, offering Rs 10 lakh to anyone who shaved Sonu Nigam’s head. The singer shaved off all his hair himself in response.
In Allahabad VC’s case, the DIG of police Sarvashresth Tripathi and DM Bhanu Chandra Goswami have confirmed that they have received such a letter. The authorities said the issue is being addressed according to legal procedures.