Punjab & Haryana HC Bans Use Of Loudspeakers Without Permission

While disposing off 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 a latest landmark ruling prohibited 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 culture of gangsters. Therefore, it has rightly banned songs glorifying violence in public events.

It must be mentioned here that in these five writ petitions – 1. CWP No. 6213 of 2016 (O&M) Reet Mohinder Singh vs State of Punjab and others, 2. CWP-PIL No. 27011 of 2016 (O&M) Panditrao Dharenavar vs The Principal Secretary to Government, Punjab and others, 3. CWP-PIL No. 32 of 2018 (O&M) Court on its own motion vs State of Punjab and others, 4. CWP-PIL No. 42 of 2018 (O&M) Ram Kumar Garg vs Union Territory, Chandigarh and another, 5. CWP No. 11564 of 2018 (O&M) Serving in Organisations for Legal Initiatives vs Union of India and others, a two Judge Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu on July 22, 2019 while disposing off these five writ petitions filed to curb excessive pollution in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh has clearly prohibited the use of loudspeakers in the territory without prior permission from the authorities. Very rightly so! We all know the ill effects of loud speakers very well.

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 its 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 Jain, Senior Standing Counsel, U.T. Chandigarh, Shri Deepak Balyan, Additional Advocate General, Haryana and Shri Shireesh Gupta, Senior Deputy Advocate General, Punjab.”

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 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 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 which produce noise regularly e.g. Religious institutions, marriage palaces, barred industrial units, etc. should have noise monitoring devices installed to prevent them 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 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 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 have 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 in accordance with 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

i) Whenever community centers 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 breach, the money should be confiscated while in case of compliance it should be refunded.”

It would be imperative to now mention that the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it known in no uncertain terms in para 14 that, 'We have gone through the report submitted by the Committee. We agree with the suggestions/inputs made by the Committee. Since the States of Punjab and Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh have not filed their response, we are not left with any option but to dispose of the writ petitions after accepting the suggestions/inputs made by the Committee.”

What's more, it is then also made clear in para 15 that, 'The Governments of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh have not taken sufficient measures to check the noise pollution either emanating from the factories or by way of indiscriminate use of loudspeakers/amplifiers even by religious bodies, may be by Temples, Mosques and Gurudwaras.”

Interestingly enough, para 16 then envisages that, 'The Central Government has framed the Noise Pollution (Regulations and Control) Rules, 2000. According to Rule 3, the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for different areas/zones shall be such as specified in the schedule annexed to these Rules. The State Governments are required to categorize the areas into industrial, commercial, residential or silence areas/zones for the purpose of the implementation of noise standards for different areas. It is the prime responsibility of the State Government under Rule 3 (3) to take effective measures for abatement of noise including noise emanating from vehicular movements; blowing of horns, bursting of sound emitting fire crackers, use of loudspeakers or public address systems and sound producing instruments and to ensure that the existing noise levels do not exceed the ambient air quality standards specified under these Rules. According to Rule 4, the noise level in an y area/zone shall not exceed 10dB(A) above the ambient noise standards specified in the schedule. The authority shall be responsible for the enforcement of noise pollution. The 'authority” is defined under Rule 2(c). Rule 5 being important is reproduced as under:-

'5. RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF LOUD SPEAKERS/PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM AND SOUND PRODUCING INSTRUMENTS. -

(1) A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority.

(2) A loud speaker or a public address system or any sound producing instrument or a musical instrument or a sound amplifier shall not be used at night time except in closed premises for communication within, like auditoria, conference rooms, community halls, banquet halls or during a public emergency.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (2), the State Government may subject to such terms and conditions as are necessary to reduce noise pollution, permit use of loud speakers or [public address systems and the like during night hours] (between 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight) on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding fifteen days in all during a calendar year] [The concerned State Government shall generally specify in advance, the number and particulars of the days on which such exemption would be operative.]

(4) The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used shall not exceed 10dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75dB(A) whichever is lower.

(5) The peripheral noise level of a privately owned sound system or a sound producing instrument shall not, at the boundary of the private place, exceed by more than 5dB(A) the ambient noise standards specified for the area in which it is used.

5A. RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF HORNS, SOUND EMITTING CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENTS AND BURSTING OF FINE CRACKERS.-

(1) No horn shall be used in silence zones or during night time in residential areas except during a public emergency.

(2) Sound emitting fire crackers shall not be burst in silence zone or during night time.

(3) Sound emitting construction equipments shall not be used or operated during night time in residential areas and silence zones”.”

Needless to say, it is then stated in para 17 that, 'According to plain reading of Rule 5, a loudspeaker or a public address system cannot be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority. The loudspeaker or any sound producing instrument or a musical instrument or a sound amplifier cannot be used at night time except in closed premises for communication within, like auditoria, conference rooms, community halls, Banquet halls etc. The State Government may subject to such terms and conditions as are necessary to reduce the noise pollution, permit use of loudspeakers or public address systems and like during night hours between 10.00 p.m. to 12.00 midnight on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding fifteen days in all during a calendar year. The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used cannot exceed 10dB(A) above the ambient noise standards.”

While pooh-poohing the lack of strict implementation of rules, it is then held in para 18 that, 'The Governments of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh have not enforced the provisions of Rules 3, 4 and 5 effectively. The loudspeakers keep on blaring even beyond 12.00 midnight. The loudspeakers keep on blaring even beyond 12.00 midnight. The loudspeaker cannot be permitted to be used without the written permission from the authority even by the Temples, Mosques and Gurudwaras. It is only for limited period of festival and special occasions that for 15 days, the permission can be granted to use the loudspeakers and public address system between 10.00 p.m. to 12.00 midnight. The indiscriminate use of loudspeaker or amplifier or musical instrument causes annoyance, disturbance and discomfort. It disturbs the sleeping pattern of the patients. The study of the students is also adversely affected.”

More worryingly, it is then observed in para 22 that, 'The glorification of violence has given rise to culture of gangsters in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh.” Violence under no circumstances can ever be justified. Justification of violence under any circumstances only serves in contributing further to bring about more lawlessness and the culture of gangsters gets further promoted! How can this be ever justified?

Not stopping here, it is then further added in para 23 that, 'The Court can also take judicial notice of the fact that glorification of the liquor, wine, drugs and violence in the songs in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh, has increased in recent times. These songs affect the children of impressionable age. The children below the age of 12 years are not to be permitted to enter cinema halls/multiplexes, where 'A” certificate films are screened. Semi-nude film posters are vulgar and display nudity. There is indecent representation of women, which is derogatory to women.”

Be it noted, it is then underscored in para 24 that, 'As far as the frequent deaths and injuries caused by the persons using fire arms in marriage/religious processions/social gatherings/public/political rallies, this tendency is required to be curbed.”

Suffice it to say, para 26 then holds that, 'It is thus evident that the fire-arms can be permitted to be carried for the purpose of sport/self-protection/protection of crops and cattle/display. The fire-arms are not permitted to be carried in a fair, religious procession or other public assemblage or within the campus or precincts of any educational institution.”

To say the least, while sounding a note of caution, it is then observed in para 27 that, 'The licence for fire-arms is issued only for limited purposes. No person has a fundamental right to hold fire-arms. The State has absolute right to regulate acquisition and use of arms by laying down the norms.”

Finally and perhaps most significantly, it is then held in para 28 that, 'Accordingly, the writ petitions are disposed of with the following mandatory directions:-

i) The States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are directed to ensure that no loudspeaker or public address system shall be used by any person including religious bodies in Temples, Mosques and Gurudwaras without written permission of the authority even during day time, that too, by getting an undertaking that the noise level shall not exceed more than 10dB(A) peripheral noise level.

ii) The States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are directed to ensure that the loudspeaker, public address system, musical instrument and sound amplifier are not played during night time except in auditoria, conference rooms, community halls, banquet halls as per norms laid down under the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

iii) The States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are directed to ensure that loud speakers or public address systems are not used between 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m., except between 10.00 p.m. to 12.00 midnight during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding 15 days in all during a calendar year, that too, the noise level shall not exceed 10dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area. The peripheral noise level of a privately owned sound system or a sound producing instrument shall not, at the boundary of the private place, exceed by more than 5dB(A). The authority concerned shall keep on visiting and monitoring at the public places, private places, auditoriums, conference rooms, community halls, conference rooms, community halls, banquet halls, temples, mosques and Gurudwaras to ensure due compliance of the Rules.

iv) We direct all the Senior Superintendents of Police/Superintendents of Police in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh to ensure that no horn shall be blown in silence zone or during the night time between 10.00 p.m. to 06.00 a.m. in residential areas except during public emergency. No sound emitting construction equipments shall be used or operated during the night time between 10.00 p.m. to 06.00 a.m. in residential areas or silence zone. The pressure horns are banned throughout the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh. The violators of the Rules be penalized under the Rule 6 of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.

v) All the Senior Superintendents of Police/Superintendent of Police and Deputy Superintendent of Police in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are directed to ensure that motorcycles throughout the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are duly fitted with silencers to avoid noise pollution and menace.

vi) No person, throughout the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh, shall carry any fire-arm to a fair, religious procession/marriage procession or other public assemblage or within the campus or precincts of any educational institution.

vii) The Licensing Authorities are also directed to ensure that no licence is issued to any person, who has not completed the age of 21 years.

viii) No licence shall be issued to a person who has been sentenced on conviction of any offence involving violence or moral turpitude to imprisonment for [any term] at any time during a period of five years.

ix) No licence shall be issued to a person who has been ordered to execute under Chapter VIII of the [Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974)], a bond for keeping the peace or for good behaviour, during the term of the bond.

x) The Director General of Police in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh, are directed to ensure that no songs are played glorifying the liquor, wine, drugs and violence in any song even in live shows.

xi) The States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are also directed that no child below the age of 12 years is permitted to enter cinema halls/multiplexes, where 'A” certificate films are screened.

xii) The District Administration is directed to ensure that nude posters, semi-nude posters, obscene posters should not be fixed/displayed in any district near the educational institutions in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh.

xiii) The Deputy Commissioners in the States of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh are directed to ensure that no loudspeakers are permitted 15 days before the annual examinations and during the course of examinations.

xiv) The recommendations made by the Committee constituted by this Court are ordered to be implemented in letter and spirit for proper enforcement of law.

xv) The District Magistrates/Senior Superintendents of Police/Superintendents of Police of each district shall be personally responsible to ensure due compliance of the directions issued hereinabove.”

Before parting, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bench comprising of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu observed in para 29 that, 'We place on record our appreciation for the valuable assistance rendered by the Committee” and then finally in para 30 that, 'A copy of this order be sent to the Chief Secretaries of the States of Punjab, Haryana and Home Secretary, Union Territory, Chandigarh, for compliance.”

All in all, it is a very well written judgment which demonstrates zero tolerance for noise pollution. It ably issues a series of mandatory directions to ensure that noise pollution is contained to a large extent. There can be no denying or disputing that this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment by the Punjab and Haryana High Court deserves to be implemented in letter and spirit and all the High Courts must emulate this landmark judgment to ensure that noise pollution is contained to a large extent! It also leaves no room for doubt in holding very rightly that those songs which glorify violence must be banned in public events!

 

Sanjeev Sirohi 
on 02 August 2019
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