'Noise Pollution vis-a-vis Religion'

By Vibha Sirothiya,
Final Year, NLIU Bhopal.



Introduction - Is piety not possible without noise pollution?

  1. Noise: Nuisance and health hazard
  2. Legislative Initiatives
  3. Rights and remedies provided in Indian law

    1. Indian Judiciary on religion and noise pollution

Conclusion and Recommendations


This paper deals with the legal issues relating to Noise Pollution and Religion. And the issue that - Is piety not possible without noise pollution?



Before the development of Environmental jurisprudence, the Common law remedy of Nuisance was the only means to remedy. Nuisance need not be public nuisance and interference with a person’s personal comfort is enough, though at least in general, a private nuisance pre-supposes possession and control of land from which nuisance proceeds. Whether noise constitutes a nuisance is a question of degree. Yet where the noise is caused maliciously, same will be taken into account. Noise emitted from religious reasons/institutions is one of the major causes of noise pollution arised out of social activities , but movement against noise pollution, has not been effective, as most people in India do not consider such kind of noise as pollution but a part of routine and socio-religious life. In order to curb noise pollution, it is essential that people realize dangerous consequences of noise and to take some remedial measures.

Noise by definition is unwanted sound. What is pleasant to some ears may be extremely unpleasant to other, depending on a number of psychological factors. Noise pollution originated through religious reasons affects human life in many ways. It affects sleep, hearing, communication and mental health and physical health and finally the peace of living.

Pollution is a noun derived from transitive verb ‘pollute’, which according to Random House Dictionary of English Language means: to foul, to pollute the air etc. An important component of air pollution which is assuming importance is the Pollution from Noise. Noise is an inescapable by product of development, which is increasing very fast with the advancement urbanization..

We in India are exposed not only to noises, common to most countries, but in addition we have to face misuse of loudspeakers, in festivals like Navratri Garba ,Ganesh Chathurthi, loud and shrill bhajan sandhyas and early morning ajaans, noisy crackers, etc, which are firmly put down in most countries.

Several interlocutory applications have been filed in Supreme Court, wherein it was pleaded that restriction on bursting of firecrackers in the night should be removed during the Diwali festival. Similar relaxation was demanded for other festivals Indian society is pluralistic. People of this great country belong to different castes and communities, have belief in different religions and customs and celebrate different festivals. We are tolerant for each other. There is unity in diversity. If relaxation is allowed to one there will be no justification for not permitting relaxation to others and if we do so the relaxation will become the rule. It will be difficult to enforce the restriction.


Noise: Nuisance and health hazard

Noise not only causes irritation or annoyance as defined above but it does also constrict the arteries, and increases the flow of adrenaline and forces the heart to work faster, thereby accelerating the rate of cardiac ailment, the reason being that continuous noise causes an increase in the cholesterol level resulting in permanent constriction of blood vessels, making one prone to heart attacks and strokesHealth experts are of the opinion that excessive noise can also lead to neurosis and nervous breakdown.

More often than not it is forgotten that Noise travel through air and hence it is measured in ambient air quality level. Hence Noise is essential as important as air pollution or worse than that, as the health hazard is not immediately known.

Noise is measured in decibel. Experts believe that continues noise level excess of 90 decibels can cause loss of hearing and irreversible changes in nervous system. WHO has fixed 45 decibels as the safe noise level for a city, though the three metropolitan cities of Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai, usually registered an average more than 90 decibels, while Mumbai is rated as the third noisiest city in the world. New Delhi is said to be closely following Mumbai in noise pollution and if control measures are not taken to reduce sound level, result would be alarmingly disastrous.


Legislative Initiatives

With growing awareness in the country about the hazards of noise pollution, the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the Government of India framed a draft of Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules, 1999 inviting objections and suggestions from the public. The following year the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 came into force.

The regulations asked state governments to demarcate areas under their jurisdiction into industrial, commercial, residential or silence areas/zones and to ensure that the noise level in each of these areas stayed within the outer limits specified by the ministry. At the same time, it was also stipulated that no one could use loudspeakers and public address systems without prior permission from relevant authorities. It was also provided that "A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10.00 p.m. To 6.00 a.m.) Except in closed premises for communication within".

Certain amendments were made in the Noise Rules in November 2000. This gave some to state governments: "the State Government may… permit use of loudspeakers or public address systems during night hours (between 10.00 p.m. To 12.00. Midnight) on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding fifteen days in all during a calendar year".


Rights and remedies provided in Indian law

Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees life and personal liberty to all persons. It is well settled by repeated pronouncements of the Apex Court as also the High Courts that right to life enshrined in Article 21 is not of mere survival or existence. It guarantees a right of persons to life with human dignity. Therein are included, all the aspects of life which go to make a person’s life meaningful, complete and worth living. The human life has its charm and there is no reason why the life should not be enjoyed along with all permissible pleasures. Anyone who wishes to live in peace, comfort and quiet within his house has a right to prevent the noise as pollutant reaching him. Noone can claim a right to create noise even in his own premises which would travel beyond his precincts and cause nuisance to neighbors or others. Any noise that has the effect of materially interfering with the ordinary comforts of life judged by the standard of a reasonable man is nuisance. How and when a nuisance created by noise becomes actionable has to be answered by reference to its degree and the surrounding circumstances, the place and the time.

Those who make noise often take shelter behind Article 19(1)A pleading freedom of speech and right to expression.Undoubtedly, the freedom of speech and right to expression are fundamental rights but the rights are not absolute.Nobody can claim a fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound of his speech with the help of loudspeakers.While one has a right to speech, others have a right to listen or decline to listen. Nobody can be compelled to listen and nobody can claim that he has a right to make his voice trespass into the ears or mind of others. Nobody can indulge into aural aggression. If anyone increases his volume of speech and that too with the assistance of artificial devices so as to compulsorily expose unwilling persons to hear a noise raised to unpleasant or obnoxious levels then the person speaking is violating the right of others to a peaceful,comfortable and pollution-free life guaranteed by Article 21.Article 19(1)A cannot be pressed into service for defeating the fundamental right guaranteed by Art. 21.

Not that the Legislature and the Executive in India are completely unmindful of the menace of noise pollution.Laws have been enacted and the Rules have been framed by the Executive for carrying on the purposes of the legislation. The real issue is with the implementation of the laws.What is needed is the will to implement the laws. Treatment of the problem of noise pollution can be dealt under the Law of Crimes and Civil Law. Civil law can be divided under two heads (i) The Law of Torts (ii) The General Civil Law. The cases regarding noise have not come before the law courts in large quantity. The reason behind this is that many people in India did not consider noise as a sort of pollution and they are not very much conscious about the evil consequences of noise pollution. The level of noise pollution is relative and depends upon a person and a particular place. The law will not take care of a super sensitive person but the standard is of an average and rational human being in the society.

During the ensuing period the concept of noise being a ‘Nuisance’ gradually changed to its being a "health Hazard" as more and more doctors started research on effects of Noise.  A set of "assurances" was submitted by the police to the court.    The most significant event was the passing of the Environment Protection Act, in 1985 and the Rules on Noise 1989 and then Rules on Noise 2000 and Rules 2002

Under this Act the following curbs on decibel levels were introduced.  It is important to note that noise was considered a "pollutant" under the Environment Protection Act. The Environmental Protection Act in Schedule III prescribes measure of Noise pollution in a very crude form. The enactment of the Noise Regulation Rules 2000 under Sec. 3 of Environmental Protection Act, 1986, is seen as a comprehensive legislation in controlling the increase of the noise level in Industrial, [75 decibels] commercial [65 decibels] and residential zones [55 decibels]. The Rules have prescribe different level of noise in these areas, and have entrust the DC of the district to be the regulatory authority for its strict implementation. The Rules mention the creation of silence zones to define the 100 meters from school, courts, educational institutions and hospitals. The following are the highlights of the Rules

1. No permission can be granted by any authority for use of public address system in the open after 10.00 pm and before 6.00 am. No exception is possible. Any person or organization making noise on amplified system after 10.00 pm is violation of the law and the person can be prosecuted under the provisions of the EPA 1986.

2. Authorities [Sub-divisional Magistrates] can only grant permission for use of amplified public address system in the open for the period 6.00 am-10.00 pm. Only the District Magistrates can grant permissions after 10.00 pm, provides the function is within closed premises. District Magistrates cannot grant permission for use of any amplified public address system after 10.00 pm.

3.After permission has been procured the sound must fall within the sound limits prescribed in the Noise Rules. This can be measured on a sound meter.

4. Any person violating the Rules, is liable to be arrested under the stringent provisions of the EPA

5. If the authorities do not act to stop violation of the Noise Rules, the citizen who has filed a complaint can approach the Court with his complaint after 60 day’s notice and the Court can initiate prosecution.

6. The rules also fixes different ambient air quality levels for firecrackers and industrial activities.


Indian Judiciary on religion and noise pollution

Effect of noise on health is a matter which has yet not received full attention of our judiciary, but it deserves. Pollution being wrongful contamination of environment which causes material injury to the right of an individual, noise can well be regarded as a pollutant because it contaminates environment, causes nuisance and affects the health of a person and would, therefore, offend Article 21, if it exceeds a reasonable limit.

Way back in 1952 the Bombay High Court in State of Bombay v Narasu Appa Mali asked authorities to regulate the use of loudspeakers during night when the Ganesh and Navratri festivals were being celebrated. The Court ordered the strict implementation of Environmental Acts. Nobody can object on celebration of festivals, but their means of celebration must not disturb the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood was the strict view of the Judiciary.

The Noise from use and bursting of fire crackers came up before the, the Calcutta High court, in Burrabazar case . Taking a highly activist stand, the court put severe restriction on the manufacture, storage and selling of fireworks even in the absence of specific legislation for controlling noise creators. The High Court relied on the Constitution, specifically Art. 19(1)(a) read with Art 21, to hold that citizens have a right to a decent environment, right to live peacefully, right to sleep at night and right to leisure, which are all the necessary ingredients of the right to life.

In Free Legal Aid Cell v. Government of NCT of Delhi the Court directed for the establishment of separate courts to deal with the problem of noise pollution. Further all District Magistrates should be empowered to issues prohibitory orders under Sec. 144 of Cr.P.C to limit the hours for the use of loudspeakers. The Court directed the Delhi government to restrict the use of firecrackers in religious festivals, marriages, processions etc.,. It shall be the duty of the area SDM's to see that Noise Control Rules are strictly adhered to and any default in this regard will be treated as misconduct, liable for disciplinary action besides action for disobeying court's order.

After Narasu Appa Mali case in the Bombay High Court, nothing much was said or done about regulating noise from religious establishment due to sensitive religious sentiments prevailing in the Country. The Court have approached the subject of regulating noise in religious institutions with caution and reverence and most of the decision have been based on the bare facts of the case without the Judiciary touching any aspect about the religious practices.

In Biranagana the Court upheld that power of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate under Sec. 34-A of the Police Act 1861 to direct a religious organization against the use of microphones, which might hinder the rights of citizens to lead a life of peace and tranquility.

The Kerala High Court in P. A Jacob asked a Christianity denomination not to use loudspeakers on the ground that it would disrupt the law and order and it might be inconvenient for the other group of citizens. Rejecting the petitioners claim of freedom of speech and expression, the Court held that ‘ recognition of the right of speech and expression is recognition accorded to human faculty. A right belongs to human personality and not to a mechanical device. Relying on various scientific studies which shows the negative impact of noise on human beings, the court held that the compulsory exposure of unwilling persons to high noise level would amount to a clear infringement of their constitutional guarantee of right to life under Art. 21. The right to a safe environment including safe air quality and noise level was implicit in the right to life guaranteed according to Art. 21 of our Constitution.

In an organized society, rights are related with duties towards others including neighbors. This was reiterated in Church’s of God wherein the Apex Court came down heavily on the practice of beating of drums and use of loudspeakers early in the morning in places of worship. The Supreme Court has ruled that no religion prescribes this practice. In a landmark judgment, the Court held that no religion prescribes or preaches that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by disturbing peace and tranquility. ‘In a civilized society in the name of religion, activities which disturb old, infirm persons, student or children having their sleep in the early hours or during day or other persons carrying on other activities cannot be permitted’. The Court added that ‘it should not be forgotten that babies in the neighborhoods are also entitled to enjoy their natural right of sleeping in a peaceful atmosphere. Rejecting the contention that by this order the church’s fundamental right under Art. 25 would be violated, Mr. Justice Shah said that the fundamental right to preach religion was subject to public order, morality and healthy. ‘No religion prescribes or preaches that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums’.

The fact that one individual approached the Court cannot be dismissed on the ground that only the petitioner was affected. In Sayeed Maqsood Ali v The State of M. P a cardiac patient, residing near an Eye Hospital and by the side of a Dharmashala and near an educational institutions complained to the Court that the State run Dharmashala which accommodates various categories of people and many a religious function was accused of producing noise at high level. The Dharmashala was given on rent for the purpose of holding marriages and other functions through out the year and the noise was continuous. In the Dharmashala, loudspeakers were utilized where music was played at a very high pitch creating disturbance to the petitioner and other persons residing in the said locality. The Court upheld the complaint of the petitioner and ordered the restricted use of such public places.

In the recent judgement of Forum, Prevention of Environment & Sound Pollution v. Union of India and Anrs here it was discussed that The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 have come into force w.e.f. 14th February, 2000 Rule 5 of these rules imposes restrictions on the use of loud speakers/ public address system. Exception of this rule is that the state government can permit use of loudspeakers on public address system during any festive or religious occasion for certain time (10:00 P.M. to 12:00 midnight) with certain limitations. This sub rule (3) has been inserted through Amendment Rules 2002 w.e.f. 11th Oct, 2002 and therefore, its constitutional validity had been challenged in the High Court of Kerela. The High court had dismissed the petition holding that sub rule was intra vires. The aggrieved petitioners has filed special leave petition in Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s earlier judgment Noise Pollution v. In rewas cited where it was held that freedom from noise pollution was a part of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court quoted from Times of India. It was stated that use of loud speakers can not be must for performing religious acts and no religion ever says to force the unwilling to listen the expressions of religious beliefs. The court opined that the passage quoted in the newspaper stated the factual position as to the objective of several religions and their underlying logic.

 However, keeping in view the diversity of cultures and religions in India, the Court justified the limited power of exemption from operation of the Noise Rules granted by the Central Government as its statutory power. The power to grant exemption is conferred on State Government but the State Government exercise the power with due care and caution and in public interest.

 As per court opinion the state government should specify in advance, the number and particulars of the days on which such exemption will be operative, and it should not apply to silence zone areas. The Court therefore, clarified the position of law. The court also clarified that in Noise Pollution v., in Reit had not granted any exemption or relaxation in favour of any one. The court asserted that, it only upheld the constitutional validity of the Noise Pollution Rules framed by the Central Government in exercise of its statutory powers. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the High Court was affirmed with certain clarifications.


Conclusion and Recommendations

The Judicial response has been tremendous and appreciable, but the reality of ground remains unchanged Only people’s movement might bring about this and it is time that people take this challenge.here are some steps which can be impact fully helpful in solving the problem of noise pollution with relation to religion.