Remove illegal loudspeakers at mosques, Hindu temples: Court

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MUMBAI: In a landmark ruling, the Bombay high court on Wednesday ordered the police to remove loudspeakers from those mosques in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai that have not obtained required permissions for them from the authorities.

But going beyond the complaint at hand about mosques crossing the decibel level, the division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), made the issue about fighting the menace of noise pollution in general. The bench said unauthorised loudspeakers must be confiscated irrespective of whether they were installed for “Ganeshotsav, Navratri or in mosques… irrespective of religion, caste or community”. It called on citizens to “come together” against noise pollution. 

TOI reports that Santosh Pachalag, a resident of Navi Mumbai filed a PIL on the issue of “illegal use of loudspeakers” by mosques in Navi Mumbai, disturbing the quiet in ‘silence zones’, which house schools and hospitals, on the grounds that they surpass the decibel levels allowed under the Noise Pollution (Control and Regulations) Rules 2000. He made his case with supporting data acquired through the Right to Information Act (RTI). The data obtained recently revealed that 45 of the 49 mosques in the area – around 92% did not have the requisite permission for loudspeakers. 

The judges asked the state to find out if the mosques have taken necessary approval. “If they have not, what steps have you taken? This cannot go on,” said Justice Kanade. 

Pachalag’s advocate D G Dhanure said the police can confiscate the loudspeakers if they are being used without proper approvals. He submitted that, according to RTI data, Ganpati and Navratri mandals in Thane had applied for permission to play loudspeakers. 

The bench said that unauthorised loudspeakers must be confiscated in all cases, “whether Ganeshotsav or Navratri or mosques”. It observed that festivals like Ganeshotsav and Navratri can get noisy. “They are a source of continuous noise pollution. It is impossible to sleep during Ganeshotsav, particularly its last five days,” said Justice Kanade, adding that “patients and old people at home” are especially affected. The judges called for a citizens’ initiative against noise pollution. 

The judges directed the state to file an affidavit on whether all mosques in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai that use loudspeakers have sought permission for them. “If necessary permission is not obtained, the police are directed to take adequate steps to remove these loudspeakers,” they noted in their order.

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