The directions given by the Mumbai High Court to the Maharashtra government with respect to controlling of noise pollution on 13 March 2015 is the latest in the series of judgments given by various courts and the rules enacted by the Union Government.
Under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the citizens have a right of a decent environment and they have a right to live peacefully, right to sleep at night and to have a right to leisure which are all necessary ingredients of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
Union Government on 14 February 2000 enacted the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 in exercise of its power conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to control the increasing ambient noise level in public places from various sources.
The Rule 5 of the Noise Rules 2000 restricts the use of loud speakers/public address system. The Rule 5 was amended in 2010 to restrict the use of sound producing equipments also. In all these cases a written permission is necessary for using such equipment.
District Magistrate, Police Commissioner and other officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police are the implementing authroity under the Noise Rules, 2000.
The State Government has been empowered to grant permission to use loudspeaker on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of limited duration not exceeding fifteen days in all during the calendar year. But such relaxation is not permissible between 10 PM and 12 midnight.
Supreme Court Judgment 2005
The blatant disregard in the implementation of the Noise Rules 2000 led to deliverance of landmark judgment on noise pollution by the Supreme Court on 18 July 2005.
The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti and Justice Ashok Bhan in Re: Noise Pollution Û ... vs Unknown case issued sweeping direction on the use of loudspeakers and horns, even noise produced in private residences.
The directions also covered the noise generated from fire crackers, loudspeakers, vehicular noise, etc.
Court also stressed the need for education in this regard in text books.
It banned the use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am in public places (except in emergencies)
The decibel level of megaphones or public address systems should not exceed 10 dB (A) above the ambient noise standards for the area, or 75 dB (A), whichever is lower.
The court issued sweeping direction with respect to noise pollution under exercise of its powers under Articles 141 and 142 of the Indian Constitution, which rendered them the authority of law of the land till such time as parliament, legislated on the problem.
Other High Courts judgments
Kerala HC held that singing of devotional songs by religious institutions should be inconformity with the rules. Whatever be the justification for playing devolution songs in the early morning and at dusk or at any time it has to be in conformity with the rules that are in force.
Madras HC had the occasion to consider the use of loudspeaker in a temple. HC held that rule of law is more than anything else requires that all laws as enacted by Parliament and State Legislatures be faithfully executed by officials, that orders of Courts be obeyed.
Calcutta HC applied the principle of judicial activism while deciding an issue as to whether the prohibition of manufacturing of noise polluting fireworks is valid. Judicial activism confers power upon the court to be active and not remain inactive for the purpose of protecting rights, duties and obligations of the people.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules, 2010
The Noise Rules, 2000 were amended in 2010 to include the words "fire crackers and sound polluting instruments."
It also defined public places as any place to which the public have access and night time as period between 10 pm to 6 am.
It amended the Rule 5 of the Noise Rules, 2000 to add “and sound producing instruments” after “Public address System” in the headline.