The decision of the Changanassery Municipality in the Kottayam district of Kerala to sound a siren at 6:39 p.m. every day from March 23 to April 21 to alert the Muslim community about the end of the Ramzan fast has been challenged before the Kerala High Court.

A petition has been filed by K.U. Santhakumar, the District President of the Hindu Aikyavedi through Advocate Vishnu Jayapalan stating that the petitioner is aggrieved by the order issued by the Secretary of the Changanassery Municipality regarding sounding a siren during the Ramzan.

The petition says, “Alerting the members of the Muslim community of the end of the fast is a completely religious function which is dutifully being done by the clerics in the mosques. The State and instrumentalities of it have absolutely no role in the same and any departure from the same is nothing but a naked violation of the concept of Secular State which has been declared to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India. The Exhibit P1 is also an act ultravires to the provisions of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994, which does not permit the Municipality to step into the shoes of a religious cleric and mobilize public resources and machinery to aid and take part in a religious activity.”

It has been pointed out in the petition that the very identity of a modern secular democratic nation lies in its ability to separate religion from state's activities while ensuring there is no religious discrimination and the freedom to practice and propagate religion is upheld.

“A secular state ought not and hence should not do anything intended to favor or promote any particular religion, or to give greater assistance to those who pursue it. When the Municipality issued an order directing its officials to take part in the religious activity of a particular religion alone and mobilized its resources for the same, the State has shed its secular role by discriminating against other religions and also violated its Constitutional duty to remain religiously neutral”, pleads the petitioner.

The petitioner has contended that in modern times, when every resource is at arms to alert a believer of the end of the fast and when the Changanassery Municipality has several mosques within its boundary with loudspeakers to alert believers, there is absolutely no purpose served by the decision of the Municipality other than to drag the State into the rituals of a religion.

“… mixing religion with administrative action is nothing short of sounding death knell to the secular ethos of this Nation and to Secularism which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. When the State machinery is used to favor a particular religion with an ulterior motive to canvass support on religious lines as in the instant case, all boundaries of separation of State from religion breaks and a state of anarchy will come to reign. The Ext.P1 order of the 3rd respondent is arbitrary, illegal, without jurisdiction, violative of Article 14 and is against the basic structure of the Constitution and hence ought to be interfered by this Hon’ble Court”, the petition says.

Another Writ Petition was filed yesterday by the Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action (CASA) through Advocate C. Rajendran, seeking to quash the same order issued by the Changanassery Municipality directing its employees to sound a siren.

“Nowhere in the Constitution there is any stipulation that the government should bear the expenses for conducting the rituals or festival of a particular religion or for using the government machinery for the same. India is a secular Country and states the Golden principle equality before law and equal protection of law is the basic structure of the Constitution. If one community rights or rituals are being performed by using government machinery and the government employees, all other religions will have to be given such facilities. In such a situation the government missionary would be spending their time, energy and resources for conducting rites, rituals and ceremonies of Religions which are in existence in our country”, says the petition by CASA.

The CASA has argued that such an order gives a wrong message and also would definitely entice other religious people to come forward with the same request for informing the time of mass and other religious rites and rituals of Christians and also for conducting day-to-day pujas and all other rights, rituals, and ceremonies of Hindu religion which is not a conducive situation for the better interest of the State.

Both the Writ Petitions are yet to be listed before the High Court.