Observing that noise pollution regulations do not impose a blanket ban on the use of loudspeakers and that they “only prescribe limits” on the sound generated, the Bombay high court allowed a residential society in Mumbai to use loudspeakers for Navratri celebrations, even though there is a hospital located just 94m away. The Supreme Court’s guidelines on noise pollution prohibit the use of loudspeakers at places located within 100m of a hospital, school, court, or a religious place.
The court however, imposed upon the society members the condition that the loudspeakers will be used only within an enclosed space such as a closed hall or basement and only between 5.30pm. and 10.30pm. The court directed the society members to ensure that the occupants of neighboring buildings are not inconvenienced.
A division bench of the high court was hearing a petition filed by a residential society in the central suburb of Vikhroli. The residents said they had been organising Navratri celebrations in the basement of their society building for years after seeking the local police’s permission. They said they use loudspeakers inside the enclosed space without any other sound-amplifying devices and none of their neighbours have ever complained . While they had undertaken to follow the same practice this year as well, the police denied them permission
Meanwhile, the state government, through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, had opposed the society’s submission arguing that it is impossible to control “the use of loudspeakers once they are permitted.”
Singh said that according to the previous orders of the high court, “use of loudspeakers, amplifiers and carrying out processions or holding mega events, cultural programmes cannot be said to be an integral part of the right to freedom of religion.”
The however, held that since the petitioners restrict the use of loudspeakers to the basement of their building and have a No-Objection Certificate from the hospital, their request could be allowed provided that “the noise level was within permissible limits.”
“The loudspeakers should not disturb the occupants of nearby buildings, including [patients at] the hospital. Even if one resident of a nearby building or the petitioner’s building complains about disturbance, the petitioners will have to stop using loudspeakers,” said the court