Jharkhand, October 18, 2023- In a significant legal development, the Jharkhand High Court has issued a comprehensive order to combat noise pollution in the city, emphasising upon the fundamental right to sleep enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This directive came as a response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Jharkhand Civil Society through its core committee member, Atul Gera.
The PIL pointed out several critical concerns regarding noise pollution and the enforcement of regulations aimed at curbing it. The petitioner’s counsel argued that, while certain areas had been designated as “Silence Zones” with specified decibel limits and time restrictions, the state authorities, including the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board, had failed to effectively monitor and enforce these regulations.
The petitioner’s counsel also raised objections to the adequacy of the state’s prosecution against noise polluters, describing it as superficial and ineffective. Additionally, there was a glaring absence of a structured mechanism or designated authority to address grievances from individuals adversely affected by sound pollution originating from loudspeakers, amplifiers, public address systems, and other sources of noise. The counsel highlighted the urgency of monitoring sound pollution, particularly during the upcoming festive season.
In response to these concerns, the state counsel claimed to have taken several measures to combat noise pollution. They detailed prosecutions against individuals who had violated noise pollution regulations, resulting in the confiscation of items such as amplifier boxes. Moreover, fines were collected under the Motor Vehicles Act in addressing noise pollution. The police in Ranchi were equipped with sound level meters and decibel meters, and signage designating “Silence Zones” was installed in various areas, including those near hospitals and educational institutions.
The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board filed a counter affidavit, asserting that they had designated “Silence Zones” and set noise limits for various areas. However, the petitioner’s counsel raised objections to the rationality of designating “Silence Zones” only near hospitals with 50 or more beds registered under the Ayushman Bharat Yojna. They argued that areas near all hospitals, regardless of bed capacity, should be declared as “Silence Zones.”
After reviewing the counter affidavits, the Court expressed dissatisfaction with the actions taken by the respondents. As an immediate measure, the Court issued the following directives:
1. Complete ban on the use of loudspeakers, public address systems, and sound amplifiers from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
2. Prohibition of drumming, tomtom beating, trumpet playing, or the use of any sound instruments during the same night hours, except in cases of public emergencies.
3. Declaration of a “Silence Zone” within a 100-meter radius of any hospital or nursing home, regardless of its capacity.
4. Imposition of noise level limits at the boundaries of public places using loudspeakers or other noise sources.
5. Strict adherence to noise level limits for privately owned sound systems.
6. Relaxation of the ban on noise pollution during festivities, but not beyond 12:00 midnight.
7. Immediate notification of officials’ mobile numbers for complaints about noise pollution and publication of mobile numbers of mobile PCR vans.
8. Immediate action upon receiving complaints, including the seizure of sound amplifiers, loudspeakers, and public address systems.
The Court underscored that the right to sleep is a fundamental aspect of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. This reinforces the importance of the Court’s order in safeguarding the well-being and quality of life of citizens.
The matter Is scheduled for further proceedings on 5th December 2023. This decisive legal action signifies a substantial step towards addressing the pervasive issue of noise pollution in Jharkhand, while upholding citizens’ constitutional rights.