Mumbai: A Bombay High Court’s final and comprehensive order on noise pollution and obstruction of roads puts the onus of a citizen’s right to a tranquil life in a noisy city on the government even as people are expected to ensure compliance and intensify complaints.
The dubious distinction of being India’s noisiest city goes to Mumbai where its people have borne high decibel levels for decades but a clutch of petitioners who approached the Bombay High Court more than a decade back can finally hope that authorities take up this problem far more seriously.
The order, issued after hearing 10 public interest litigations (PILs) on different sources of noise pollution, has for the first time stated, “We hold that any breach of the Noise Pollution Rules shall amount to infringement of fundamental rights of citizens under the Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India and apart from the other remedies available, the citizens will have right to seek compensation from the State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India on account of the breach of fundamental rights.”
With the Ganesh festival having begun with full fervor as well as loud music, several Ganesh festive organizers were not clear about the relaxation of noise rules on special days. When a district collector issued a notification to relax loudspeakers’ use for four days , it was re-issued by the state government for the entire state of Maharashtra.
According to the notification, loudspeakers can be used on the four Ganesh immersion days — September 6, 9, 10 and 15 — till midnight. As per the environmental protection rules and regulations to control noise pollution, the use of loudspeakers or public address systems is banned from 10 pm to 6 am except 15 days in a year, mostly during the festive season.
These include Ganesh festival—4 days, Navratri—2, Christmas—1, Diwali — 2, Eid-e-Milad— 1, Shivajayanti — 1, and Dr Ambedkar Jayanti — 1. The remaining three days are reserved by the government for essential reasons. However, the use of loudspeakers in silent zones — 100 metres from a hospital, religious place, educational institution or court, is not permitted at all.
The court has stressed that a loudspeaker or public address shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from concerned authorities.
The court order also states that before every major religious or cultural festival, the State and Municipal corporations shall give adequate publicity to the grievance address mechanism available for filing complaints regarding breach of rules pertaining to noise pollution.
Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, who filed a PIL in 2007, and has been crusading against noise pollution, says that the government must run awareness campaigns so that citizens can easily make complaints. Her own NGO urges people to download a free App noise meter on to their smartphone, measure noise and photograph the measurement and file a complaint to the police.
The court has said that it is mandatory for all authorities to take into account all aspects of noise pollution as a parameter of quality of life.
Though, noise levels during festivals have somewhat come down, this order will hopefully help the state and police to keep a watch on violations. Punishment entails jail term for a maximum period of five years and a fine of Rs100,000 (Dh5,515.84).