‘Studies get priority over poll campaign’: Supreme Court upholds Bengal loudspeaker ban
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition by the BJP in West Bengal that wanted the court to cancel a 2013 order by the Mamata Banerjee government banning use of loudspeakers during February and March. The prohibition on use of loudspeakers applies in residential and institutional areas because of school exams.
Children’s studies are more important than election campaigning, the Supreme Court ruled.
The West Bengal unit of BJP, which had filed the petition, had attacked the constitutional validity of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government order and had accused the state government of going “patently overboard”.
The petition had claimed that it was aimed at stopping legitimate political activities by the BJP as it tries to build public support for the general elections scheduled in April-May.
The BJP said the state government was duty-bound to take steps to prevent noise pollution during exams but criticised the total ban on use of loudspeakers in residential areas. It said the measures taken should strike a balance between the need to protect the environment and the legitimate aspirations of people to carry out permissible activities.
“The impugned notification, in its operation during the period proximate to elections, especially general elections, operates way beyond the legitimate purview of the environmental law,” the petition said.
Also, it violates the right to freedom of speech of a political party’s members to canvass support ahead of elections. Such a notification affects voters’ right to know their candidates and denies them an opportunity to exercise their franchise effectively, the petition said.
This was the second time the BJP and the Mamata Banerjee government faced off in the top court. The two were recently locked in a litigation over the BJP’s proposed rath yatra in the state, which was not permitted by the government. The apex court had refused to intervene with the decision but allowed the BJP to seek fresh approval from the authorities.