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Noise norms: Dispensary defined as hospital, coaching class as educational institution, says state

Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni indirectly made it clear that the state will not declare any area as silence zone merely because it falls within 100 meters of an educational institution

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2017 09:45 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari
Kanchan Chaudhari
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,silence zones,Bombay high court
The advocate general also said that this is a transitory phase, and they are in the process of notifying silence zones, adding that the state intends to use its discretion and protect the silence zones where they are really required.(File)

The Maharashtra government on Tuesday told the Bombay high court that it wants to exercise discretion in notifying silence zones across the state, and that it will earmark silence zones wherever they are “really required.”

Clarifying the state’s stand on the recent amendment to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni indirectly made it clear that the state will not declare any area as silence zone merely because it falls within 100 meters of an educational institution, hospital, religious shrine or court.

Kumbhakoni said the terms ‘educational institution’ and ‘hospital’ are defined in the widest possible manner under the Noise Pollution Rules, and even a small private coaching class will be covered under the term ‘educational institution’, and almost every dispensary or clinic will fall within the ambit of the term ‘hospital’.

“The combined effect of these widest definitions and the (August 2016) judgment of this Court was that there was not an inch of land in Mumbai which was not falling within a silence zone,” said the advocate general. He was referring to the August 2016 judgement of the high court holding that all the areas falling within 100 meters of an educational institution, hospital, religious shrine or a court are deemed to be silence zones, and no specific declaration of silence zones was required.

He said the August 10, 2017 amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules was aimed at “ironing out the creases” created by the combined effect of these wide definitions and the judgment. The amendment now requires the state government to specifically notify every silence zone, and clarified that no silence zone shall come into force unless so notified by the state government.

When the bench of justice Abhay Oka and justice Riyaz Chagla asked about the effect of this amendment on existing silence zones, Kumbhakoni confirmed that all 1,537 silence zones in Mumbai no longer exist. “Former silence zones do not hold good,” he said, adding, “But we will consider those as guiding factors.”

The advocate general also said that this is a transitory phase, and they are in the process of notifying silence zones, adding that the state intends to use its discretion and protect the silence zones where they are really required.

When the judges sought to know why “the state is getting so agitated because somebody is not allowed to use a loudspeaker,” Kumbhakoni reiterated that it was not for any other reason but to “iron out the creases” and “make the high court judgment of August 2016 workable.”

The advocate general also clarified that the amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000 does not imply that permission to use loudspeakers will be granted in each case . It also does not mean that the applicants will get permission for use of loudspeakers in silence zones as a matter of right.

He was responding to two public interest litigations separately filed by Sumaira Abdulali’s Aawaz Foundation and Thane based activist, Dr. Mahesh Bedekar, complaining about lack of compliance of rules and regulations in organising festivals like Ganeshotsav, Navratri and Dahi Handi in Thane, and a lack of action on part of the authorities even if complaints are made about the violations.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 09:45 IST