As reported by various outlets, the Supreme Court has put a stay on an High Court order which had banned the use of loudspeakers in Mumbai during the annual Ganpati Visarjan. This means that the loudspeakers can be used unhindered on Tuesday.
The whole issue started when Mumbai lost its 1,537 silence zones as a result of the state government not notifying them from 10th August. This was a result of an amendment to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 which was carried out by the Central government. This amendment meant that individual states were responsible for explicitly notifying these zones.
The lack of these silent zones had meant that loudspeakers could be used unhindered throughout the city and as per some, may have had a larger than normal impact during the upcoming Ganesh Utsav. Such fears were assuaged by the Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Samanvay Samiti (BSGSS) the umbrella body of Ganesh mandals which asked the Ganesh Pandal authorities to not not play Bollywood songs or invite DJs.
But the Bombay High Court on 1st September had declared the amendments of these noise rules as unconstitutional while stating that the lack of silence zones violated the citizens’ fundamental right to live in peace. This meant that restrictions on the use of loudspeakers notably during Ganesh Visarjans were reimposed. The state government then decided to appeal this High Court order and as a result of that, the Supreme Court put a stay on it.
The apex court also sought a reply from the activists who were in favour of such a ban (the activists also had an advocate representing the in the Supreme Court) and also restrained the High Court from passing further orders in the matter. The Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who had appeared for state government had argued that if the noise regulations were taken in a literal sense it would lead to almost the whole country going silent as the rules among other things, stated that no loudspeaker can be used near small clinics, schools or even court premises.
Loudspeakers used for religious purposes have always been a controversial topic in Mumbai and the administration has often been accused of not enforcing the existing judgments regarding them.
As reported by us, in 2014 the Bombay High court had called for a removal of Illegal loudspeakers from Religious structures in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai and it had also reportedly made it clear that loudspeakers cannot be used at religious shrines from 10 PM to 6 AM. But even after that there have been high profile complaints about Mosques continuing to play early morning Azans on loudspeakers which also hasn’t been clamped upon by the authorities.