The Allahabad High Court on Friday said that the azaan, or the Islamic call to prayer, can only be recited by a muezzin or a person who gives the call for prayer, without the use of microphones and loudspeakers, Bar and Bench reported.

The court’s observation came on a batch of petitions challenging the Uttar Pradesh government’s orders restricting the use of loudspeakers for azaan during the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The petitioners include Member of Parliament Afzal Ansari, former Union Law Minister and senior advocate Salman Khurshid, and senior advocate S Wasim A Qadri.

The petitioners argued that the ban on the use of amplifying devices for azaan violated Article 25 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees the freedom of religion to all citizens.

The court told the petitioners that the use of loudspeakers cannot be considered an essential part of Islam. “Azaan may be an essential and integral part of Islam but recitation through loud­speakers or other sound amplifying devices cannot be said to be an integral part of the religion, warranting protection of the fundamental right enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India, which is even otherwise subject to public order, morality or health and to other provisions of part III of the Constitution of India,” a Division Bench of Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Ajit Kumar said.

“Therefore, until and unless there is a license/permission from the authorities concerned under the Noise Pollution Rules, under no circumstances, azaan can be recited through any sound amplifying devices,” the bench added.

The court also warned that recital through loudspeakers or other devices would attract legal action. “In case azaan is being recited through aforesaid means, it will be violative of provisions contained under the Noise Pollution Rules and strict action is liable to be taken against the persons violating such Rules, in accordance with law.”

The Uttar Pradesh government, meanwhile, argued that azaan is a call for congregation to offer prayers at mosques, and is therefore in violation of the guidelines for containing the coronavirus pandemic.

Uttar Pradesh has reported more than 4,000 cases of the coronavirus and 95 deaths, according to data from the Union health ministry.

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