Prevention of Envn. & Sound Pollution Vs. Union of India & Anr  Insc 616 (28
CJI R.C. Lahoti & Ashok Bhan
J U D G M E N T R.C. Lahoti, CJI In exercise of the powers conferred by
clause (ii) of sub- section (2) of Section 3, sub-section (i) and clause (b) of
sub- section (2) of Sections 6 and 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
(29/1986), read with Rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 the
Central Government made the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules,
2000 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Noise Rules') which have come into force
w.e.f. 14th February, 2000.
Rule 5 of the Noise Rules reads as under:
"5. Restrictions on the use of loud speakers/public address system:-
(1) A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except after
obtaining written permission from the authority.
(2) 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, e.g.
auditoria, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub- rule (2), the State
Government may, subject to such terms and conditions as are necessary to reduce
noise pollution, permit use of loud speakers 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." Sub-rule (3) has been inserted in the present
form by the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules, 2002
with effect from 11th October, 2002. The constitutional validity of sub-rule
(3) was put in issue by the appellant herein by filing a writ petition in the
High Court of Kerala. By its Judgment dated 14th March, 2003, the High Court has directed the petition to be dismissed and the sub-rule has been held to
be intra vires. The aggrieved petitioner has filed this petition by special
On behalf of the appellant, it has been submitted that this Court in its
Judgment dated July 18, 2005 Noise Pollution (V), in Re., (2005) 5 SCC 733, has
held that freedom from noise pollution is a part of the right to life under
Article 21 of the Constitution. Noise interferes with the fundamental right of
the citizens to live in peace and to protect themselves against forced
audience. This Court has also held that as between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. which is the time for the people to sleep and have peace, no noise pollution can
be permitted. The appellant also submits that the impugned sub-rule (3) which
permits the State Government to relax the applicability of sub-rule (2) and
grant exemption therefrom between 10 p.m. and 12 midnight, is violative of
Article 21 of the Constitution and runs counter to the law laid down by this
Court in Noise Pollution (V), in Re.
The learned Solicitor General has defended the vires of the said sub-rule
(3) and also the Judgment of the High Court. In his submission, the power to
grant exemption is a reasonable restriction placed in public interest. The
relaxation is for a period of 2 hours only and that too for a maximum of 15
days in all during a calendar year confined to cultural or religious occasions.
Since the power has been conferred on the State Government by the Central
Government it cannot further be delegated. The power would be exercised by the
State Government by keeping in view the interest of the entire State
Our attention was invited to Government of Goa Order No.
7/4/98/STE/DIR/Part-I/1116 published in the Official Gazette, Government of
Goa, Extraordinary No. 5, dated 5th February, 2005, wherein exercising the
powers conferred by the said sub- rule (3) of Rule 5, the Government of Goa has
specified nine days, in advance, on which the exemption granted by sub-rule (3)
of Rule 5 would be available. The Government has reserved the power to notify
six more days for cultural/religious festive occasions. Similarly, our
attention was invited to Notification No.
NP 200/24/3 (Part 3) dated 7th April, 2003 whereby the Maharashtra
Government exercising the power under sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 has notified 12
specific days, in advance, on which such relaxation shall be permissible and
remaining 3 days have been reserved to be notified, on demand from the local
people for religious festivals and cultural programmes.
A query was raised that once the power to grant exemption is allowed, often
the exemption becomes the rule.
Exemptions tend to be granted as a matter of course and are thus often
misused. Another query raised during the course of hearing was that in the
event of the vires of the said sub-rule (3) being upheld, nothing prevents the
Government from amending the Noise Rules and enhancing the number of days on
which the power to grant exemption would be available or increasing the
permissible hours of relaxation and that would again defeat the very object of
preventing noise pollution. The learned Solicitor General responded by
submitting that the impugned sub-rule has very limited operation which is
reasonable and may not be interfered with by the Court, subject to certain
further restrictions. The learned Solicitor General submitted that the
Government does not propose to widen the scope of the exemption either by
increasing the number of days or by enhancing the duration of hours of
exemption. In spite of the exemption being granted, the Government would take
care to see that the noise level does not exceed prescribed decibel limits.
Certain intervention applications were also filed. One application is by
nine organizations/bodies situated in Pune, seeking impleadment at the hearing
in the appeal, so as to support the impugned judgment of the High Court. There
were other prayers for interventions seeking directions for widening the scope
of exemption under sub-rule (3) of Rule 5. We make it clear at the very outset,
as we did in Noise Pollution (V), in Re. (supra) that we are not concerned with
any religion or religious practices; we are concerned only with the fundamental
right of the citizens and the people to protect themselves against noise
pollution and forced audiences. We are inclined to quote the following passage
from Times of India (The Speaking Tree) dated 7.10.2005:
"Those who favour the use of loudspeakers plead that it is a devotee's
religious duty enjoined by the shastras to make others listen and enjoy the
singing of bhajans. Azaan too is necessary to inform others that it is time for
namaz, a job assigned to the muezzin of the mosque.
Wait a minute. There were no loudspeakers in the old days. When different
civilisations developed or adopted different faiths or when holy books were
written to guide devotees, they did not mention the use of loudspeakers as
being vital to spread religious devotion.
So the use of loudspeakers cannot be a must for performing any religious
act. Some argue that every religion asks its followers to spread its teachings
and the loudspeaker is a modern instrument that helps to do this more
effectively. They cannot be more wrong. No religion ever says to force the
unwilling to listen to expressions of religious beliefs.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna:
"This secret gospel of the Gita should never be imparted to a man who
lacks penance, nor to him who is wanting in devotion, nor even to him who lends
not a willing ear; and in no case to him who finds fault with Me... He who,
offering the highest love to Me, preaches the most profound gospel of the Gita
among My devotees, shall come to Me alone; there is no doubt about it" (18.67-68).
The gospel should be delivered to only those who enjoy listening to it and
who have the patience to do so. It shall never be forced upon those who do not
want it. The holy Qur'an says, "Lakum Deenokum Walia Deen" your
religion and belief is for you and my religion and belief is for me. Each stay
happy with her own religion and belief. It never says, make others listen to
the gospel of your faith by using loudspeakers.
A similar instance is found in Biblical literature.
The Gospel according to Saint Luke says:
"When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and
authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to
preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
He told them: 'Take nothing for the journey no staff, no bag, no bread, no
money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave
that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you
leave their town, as a testimony against them'. So they set out and went from
village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere"
The earlier Supreme Court judgment banning the un-solicited use of
loudspeakers at inconvenient times is in conformity with religious
tenets." The above-said passage appeals to us and in our opinion very
correctly states the factual position as to the objective of several religions
and their underlying logic.
Looking at the diversity of cultures and religions in India, we think that a
limited power of exemption from the operation of the Noise Rules granted by the
Central Government in exercise of its statutory power cannot be held to be
unreasonable. The power to grant exemption is conferred on the State
It cannot be further delegated. The power shall be exercised by reference to
the State as a unit and not by reference to districts, so as to specify
different dates for different districts. It can be reasonably expected that the
State Government would exercise the power with due care and caution and in
However, we make it clear that the scope of the exemption cannot be widened
either by increasing the number of days or by increasing the duration beyond
two hours. If that is attempted to be done, then the said sub-rule (3)
conferring power to grant exemption may be liable to be struck down as
violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. We also make it clear that
the State Government should generally specify in advance, the number and
particulars of the days on which such exemption will be operative. Such
specification would exclude arbitrariness in the exercise of power. The
exemption, when granted, shall not apply to silence zone areas. This is only as
a clarification as, this even otherwise, is the position of law.
Before parting, we would like to clarify further that we may not be
understood as diluting in any manner our holding in Noise Pollution (V), in Re.
(supra). We are also not granting any exemption or relaxation in favour of
anyone by our verdict.
We are only upholding the constitutional validity of the Noise Rule framed
by the Central Government in exercise of its statutory powers.
Subject to the observations made hereinabove, the appeal is dismissed and
the Judgment of the High Court is affirmed.
All the intervention applications be treated as disposed of.