Civic chiefs cannot use their discretionary powers to grant permissions to celebrate festivals such as dahi handi, navratri or Ganeshostav on busy public streets, the Bombay high court (HC) said on Friday, imposing an indirect ban on festivities in crowded localities. The court has asked the corporations to formulate a policy to grant permission for such celebrations on public roads within two months, and take prompt action if any temporary structure comes up without their nod.
Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Dr Mahesh Bedekar on the flouting of norms during the celebrations, the division bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Ajay Gadkari said municipal commissioners cannot allow temporary structures that obstruct vehicular traffic or block free movement of pedestrians to come up on busy roads, footpaths or crowded spots such as railway stations, bus stands, auto-rickshaw and taxi stands or in the vicinity of major hospitals and schools.
The bench directed to make it mandatory for organisers to prominently display the particulars of the permission, if any, granted by the civic body concerned.
Taking stern note of the noise pollution caused during the festivities, the HC referred to the Supreme Court’s statement that the right to silence should be preserved at any cost. “Those who organise religious and other festivals cannot take away the citizens’ right to silence,” the HC said.
The court held the authorities are bound to stop noise not only from loudspeakers and public address systems, but also from other sources such as musical instruments, if it exceeds the ambient noise level mentioned in the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000. “Influential local politicians or political groups are associated with the celebrations. So, citizens tolerate such nuisance. The police authorities, too, are reluctant to take action,” the bench said.
The judges asked the authorities to create in two months a helpline with a toll-free number, so anonymous complaints can be received. The bench said the option of complaints by e-mails and text messages should also be made available, and the action taken reports should be uploaded on the websites of the municipal corporation or the collector of the district.