Citizens can claim compensation from the state if their complaints about noise pollution have gone unheard, the Bombay High Court (HC) said .
A division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Amjad Sayed said the failure of law enforcement agencies in implementing noise pollution rules was a violation of a citizen’s fundamental right. The order, issued on August 16, was published on the court’s website on September 5. The court will hear the matter again on October 4 to discuss details about the compensation citizens can claim.
“We hold that any breach of the Noise Pollution Rules shall amount infringement of fundamental right of citizens under the Article 21 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 breach of fundamental rights,” read the order.
The court gave the order while hearing a group of petitions that raised concerns over increasing noise pollution and the lack of law enforcement by the police and other government agencies. One of the public interest litigations (PILs), filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar, an anti-noise campaigner from Thane, said noise pollution rules were not followed during festivals like Ganeshotsav, Navratri and dahi handi, and the police did not investigate complaints about the violation of noise pollution rules.
Bedekar said the HC order was significant. “For the first time, the court has made someone accountable for noise pollution complaints and it will have long-term benefits for citizens,” said Dr Bedekar, adding that as per Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, authorities right from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ward offices to state government bodies such as the environment department are accountable if no punitive action is taken against offenders.
He said the current festival season is the best time for citizens to seek compensation. “If there is no actions for noise pollution complaints, citizens can now appeal to the government under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” said Bedekar, adding that if the police had failed to take action, the complainant would be entitled to compensation.
Anti-noise campaigner Awaaz Foundation said it will collect complaints from citizens, along with details of police action and draft a compliance report that will be presented in court on October 4. “It’s a strong incentive for the government not to squander money by paying compensations through this. If they do not take action, they may have hundreds of compensations to pay out,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation. “The court also directed the state government to take action against officers who do not implement the Noise Rules.”
Abdulali wrote to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday highlighting the order. “Awaaz Foundation will maintain an independent record of complaints and will independently monitor noise levels during all festivals. The court has made it clear that these orders will apply to all religions equally,” she said.
Help the cops
Citizens can assist the police by downloading decibel meter apps. According to the recent HC order, citizens can use Whatsapp and email to make anonymous complaints. “Citizens’ complaints and police action will form a record for a compliance report to HC in October,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.