Ruling that “no breach of noise pollution norms in the city will be tolerated”, no matter what the occasion, the Bombay high court on Friday issued show-cause notices of contempt against the senior police inspector of the Mahim police station, and assistant commissioner of police (ACP) Mahim division, for using loudspeakers inside the police station compound during the Mahim Dargah Urus (Mahim Fair) in December.
Justice Abhay S Oka and justice AK Menon observed that the Mahim police’s conduct was a “gross breach of the high court’s judgments and orders” and that it was a ‘fit case‘ for taking action against the police officers who should have been the implementing authority for noise norms.
The bench directed the state to inform the court of the action it proposes to take against these officers over the violations. The court also dismissed the police’s argument that it had a valid license for the use of the loudspeakers saying that “the permission that was granted to the police was not for use of loudspeakers within the police station compound, but only to allow the procession to be taken through a particular route”.
HT was the first to report the incident on December 13 last year that the inaugural procession at the Mahim Fair was as loud as 117.3 decibel (dB) (between 2.15pm and 3pm) – which is equivalent to the sound of a rock drilling machine. Incidentally, the sandal (procession) was carried out by the Mumbai police, the enforcement authority against noise pollution violations, near Mahim police station, a Silence Zone.
The observation was made by city-based non-governmental organisation Awaaz Foundation, which followed up the matter with a contempt plea filed against the Mahim police.
“It is very important that the police, as the implementation authority designated under the noise rules, are impeccable in following rules themselves,” said Sumaira Abdulali, petitioner and convener, NGO Awaaz Foundation. “HT reported the violation at the Mahim police station immediately after it happened, drawing attention to problems citizens face while trying to get the police to act against noise. The news report was mentioned during the first hearing of our contempt petition.”
The court also junked the arguments of the government pleader that the police’s decision to allow for use of the loudspeakers was justified since they had secured the permission for the use of the same between 2pm and 10pm on that day, and also the fact that it had been tradition to celebrate the ten-day long festival of Urus and organise the inaugural procession at the police station since 1923.
The court said that no tradition or authority can allow for, or validate the breach of noise pollution norms in the city. “Does tradition give the right to the police to violate rules? Does it mean that since you are the police, you can violate noise norms even when the said area is demarcated as a silent zone?” the bench said.
The police however, argued that the decibel metres used by Abdulali were inept at recording minimum and maximum sound limits and thus, “must not be relied upon”.
The court, however, dismissed the argument and noted that the police on its own part had not taken any steps to record decibel level of the noise inside the station compound, and that after Abdulali’s complaint; the police had perfunctorily recorded the noise levels from only outside the police station compound.
HC has now directed the two officers to respond to the notices by June 9 this year, and the state to file its reply by May 3 this year.
Officials from the Mumbai police had told HT at the time that if legal norms were violated action would be taken against violators, irrespective of who they might be. “We would not like to comment as the matter is sub judice,” said Pramajit Singh Dahiya, deputy commissioner of police, zone 5.