Failure to Act on Noise Pollution from Loudspeakers in Mosques Contempt of Court: Bombay HC

Last year, there was a massive controversy over loudspeakers with MNS chief Raj Thackeray calling for a ban on their use in mosques. (Representational image: Reuters/File)

The Bombay HC reprimanded the Mumbai Police for not taking action against complaints of noise pollution from loudspeakers installed in mosques

The Bombay High Court on Friday reprimanded the Mumbai Police for not taking action against noise pollution caused by loudspeakers installed in mosques, even after receiving complaints. “Failure to act on noise pollution from mosques amounts to contempt of court,” the court said.

The high court directed police to file a reply to the peition filed by a local resident. The next hearing will take place on May 29.

Last year there was a massive controversy over the use of loudspeakers with MNS chief Raj Thackeray calling for a ban on their use in mosques. This was soon after there were incidents of communal violence around Hanuman Jayanti festivities in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttarakhand. Similar clashes were also witnessed in Gujarat and Karnataka.

The Maharashtra government then took a stern view and announced that loudspeakers could only be used in religious places and events with proper prior permission.

In previous cases, the Bombay HC has said the use of loudspeakers was not a fundamental right. In August 2016, the court ruled that no religion or sect could claim that the right to use a loudspeaker or public address system was a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. It also said if a religious establishment is located in a ‘silence zone’, then rules prohibiting the use of loudspeakers and other forms of sound producing systems must be followed.

Noise is defined as an “unwanted sound, a potential health and communication hazard dumped into the environment with regard to the adverse effect it may have on unwilling ears”. According to the law, it is defined as an “air pollutant” in Section 2(a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Section 2(a) of the Act states that an “air pollutant” is any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance, including noise, present in the atmosphere in such concentrations as to be or tend to be harmful to humans, other living creatures, plants, property, or the environment”.

The Central Pollution Control Board has established permissible limits for different areas, which are then defined by different zones for day and night. The permissible limit in industrial areas is 75 decibels (dB) during the day and 70 dB at night. It is 65 dB during day and 55 dB at night in commercial areas, and 55 dB in day and 45 dB at night in residential areas.

In July 2005, the Supreme Court had banned the use of loudspeakers and music systems in public places between 10 pm and 6 am (except in cases of public emergencies), citing the serious effects of noise pollution on the health of those who live in such areas. Then, in October 2005, the SC had stated that loudspeakers could be used till midnight for festivities for 15 days a year.

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