LOUDSPEAKERS- NOISE POLLUTION-NEED TO REVISIT THE RULE

The High Court of Karnataka on Monday directed the State government to immediately issue directions to the police and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to initiate action on the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers in religious places in the State in violation of laws on noise pollution and the directions issued by the apex court.

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, issued the directions while hearing a PIL petition, filed by one Girish Bharadwaj, a resident of Bengaluru.

Constitutional provision:

The State must ensure the protection of the rights of the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Bench observed, while taking note of the fact that the court had come across several PIL petitions about illegal use of loudspeakers in religious places in violations of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control ), Rules, 2000, issued under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

The petitioner, while pointing out the directions issued to all the States by the apex court in 2005, had complained that the State government and its authorities have failed to implement the directions. The apex court had directed the State governments to make provision for the seizure and confiscation of loudspeakers, amplifiers and other types of equipment as are found to be creating noise beyond the permissible limits and timings, the petitioner has said.

The apex court, the petitioner has pointed, had also directed the Union and the State governments to ensure that noise level at the boundary of the public place, which
includes religious places, where loudspeaker or public addresses are used as per law, should not exceed 10 dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 dB(A), whichever is lower.

The petitioner also said that the apex court had also directed that no one should beat a drum or tom-tom or blow a trumpet or beat or sound any instrument or use any sound amplifier at night (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) except in public emergencies besides directing the authorities to ensure that peripheral noise level of privately owned sound the system should not exceed by more than 5 dB(A) the ambient air quality standard specified for the area.

Punjab and Haryana High Court on loudspeakers

 While disposing of five writ petitions to curb excessive noise pollution in the States of Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana has explicitly in the latest landmark ruling prohibiting the use of loudspeakers in the territory without prior permission from the authorities. It minced no words in holding that glorification of violence has given rise to a culture of gangsters. Therefore,
it has rightly banned songs glorifying violence in public events.

To start with, this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment authored by Justice Rajeev Sharma for himself and Justice Harinder Singh Sindhu begins to unfold his cards by first and foremost pointing out in para 1 that, This order will dispose of aforesaid five writ petitions as common questions of law and facts are involved therein.

To put things in perspective, it is then brought out in para 2 that, This Court vide order dated 14.3.2019 had constituted a Committee headed by Shri M.L. Sarin, Senior Advocate/Amicus Curiae together with Shri Akshay Bhan and Ms Reeta Kohli, Senior Advocates and Shri Pankaj JainSenior Standing Counsel, U.T. Chandigarh, Shri Deepak Balyan, Additional Advocate General, Haryana and Shri Shireesh Gupta, Senior Deputy Advocate General, Punjab.

Committee decision on loudspeakers

While specifying the purpose of this Committee, it is then spelt out in para 3 that, The Committee was ordered to make suggestions to this Court for formulating a policy to be implemented in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh, for effective implementation of the provisions of law to control noise pollution and decide other allied issues.

While elaborating further, it is then spelt out in para 4 that, The Committee had invited suggestions from the Committee Members and various stakeholders from various parts of the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh. The first meeting of the Committee was held on 24.4.2019. The second meeting was held on 12.5.2019. The Committee opined that there are adequate provisions of law to control the menace of noise pollution but what is lacking is its effective implementation.

The following suggestions were given for effective implementation of the provisions of law :-


i) To make the prevention of noise pollution an integral part of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

ii) Sensitize people, both the officials and the general public, about the hazardous effects of noise pollution and its ill-effects on human beings, birds and animals as well as nature.

iii) Sensitize religious institutions, marriage palaces and other noise-producing institutions about the adverse impact of noise pollution in the vicinity. In this respect highlighting the Hukamnama issued by Sri Akal Takhat Sahib on the use of loudspeakers only within the precincts of a Gurudwara.

iv) This process of sensitizing the public should be done through an aggressive campaign of 4-6 months through pamphlets, posters, newspapers, electronic media, advertisements, messages through mobile operators, etc., especially by taking the Health Department of the three governments on board.


v) The press and the media should also be requested to highlight the adverse effects of
noise pollution.

vi) The authorities responsible for implementing the laws have to be warned that it is their duty to implement the laws. In this respect, the Chief Secretaries/Advisor and the DGPs should be made responsible for the implementation of the law and to ensure that the supporting authorities under the Rules perform their duties effectively.

vii) As an aid to discharging their functions, the authorities should be equipped with
modern noise monitoring devices.

viii) Each religious institution should be asked to nominate a responsible person to ensure the implementation of the law and in case of any breach, should be held accountable.

ix) Places that produce noise regularly e.g. Religious institutions, marriage palaces, barred industrial units, etc. should have noise monitoring devices installed to prevent them from going above the permissible limit.


b) Setting up a common hotline for Punjab, Haryana and the U.T. Chandigarh


i) After creating a common command for the Chandigarh region i.e. including Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula, there should be a common helpline where complaints can be made which can further be sent to the concerned authorities in their respective areas accessible on phone, Whatsapp or email.

Single phone number of email ID should cater to the whole of the territory and the same should be widely advertised and published on radios and in newspapers, electronic media, etc.

ii) That the Authorities must have in House Standard Operating Procedure clearly defining steps that are to be taken after a complaint is received specifying outer time limit within which those steps shall be completed so that the complaint can be taken to its logical end.

iii) The identity of the complainant should be kept confidential.

iv) Record of the complaints made should be maintained by the responsible enforcing authority under the Rules.


c) Registering of Complaints

i) As the enforcement of the noise pollution laws has to be through the Chief Secretaries/DGP, the supporting enforcing authorities would send weekly reports of the complaints received and the action taken.

ii) If a complaint is made, the guilty party should be let off the first time with a warning.

iii) For the second violation, action following the applicable rules should be taken.

iv) For a third successive violation not only the guilty party but the enforcing agency should be held guilty of Contempt of Court or would necessitate the registering of a First Information Report.

d) Places requiring permission/licence
i) In places in which a licence/prior permission is required for holding functions etc., an undertaking should be obtained from the applicant to comply with the rules governing levels of sound. In case of any breach, the licence/permission would stand automatically revoked and the person would be liable to be proceeded against.

ii) The enforcing authorities could resort to video-recording of the noise pollution complaint which can easily be done with a good mobile phone if equipment recording the level of noise is also photographed simultaneously.

OR

A mobile application can be developed (as was done by the Election Commission of India during the 2019 Lok Sabha Election) whereby a photograph/video showing a violation can be sent to the enforcing authority and action needs to be taken within 60 minutes.

In addition, each PCR van should be equipped with a Noise Monitoring Device or a Decibel Meter.

e) Regarding Chandigarh

Whenever community centres in Chandigarh are allowed to be used for marriages or other functions, a certain sum of money should be kept in deposit to ensure that there is no noise pollution. In case of a breach, the money should be confiscated while in case of compliance it should be refunded.

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