Church of God (Full Gospel) In India Vs. K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare
Association & Ors  INSC 458 (30 August 2000)
Shah, J. & S.N. Phukan, J.
The questions involved in this appeal are that in a country having multiple
religions and numerous communities or sects, whether a particular community or
sect of that community can claim right to add to noise pollution on the ground
of religion? Whether beating of drums or reciting of prayers by use of
microphones and loudspeakers so as to disturb the peace or tranquility of neighbourhood
should be permitted? Undisputedly no religion prescribes that prayers should be
performed by disturbing the peace of others nor does it preach that they should
be through voice-amplifiers or beating of drums. In our view, in a civilized
society in the name of religion, activities which disturb old or infirm
persons, students or children having their sleep in the early hours or during
day-time or other persons carrying on other activities cannot be permitted. It
should not be forgotten that young babies in the neighbourhood are also
entitled to enjoy their natural right of sleeping in a peaceful atmosphere. A
student preparing for his examination is entitled to concentrate on his studies
without their being any unnecessary disturbance by the neighbours. Similarly,
old and infirm are entitled to enjoy reasonable quietness during their leisure
hours without there being any nuisance of noise pollution. Aged, sick, people
afflicted with psychic disturbances as well as children up to 6 years of age
are considered to be very sensible to noise. Their rights are also required to
the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, rules for noise pollution level are
framed which prescribe permissible limits of noise in residential, commercial,
industrial areas or silence zone. The question is whether the appellant can be
permitted to violate the said provisions and add to the noise pollution? In our
view, to claim such a right itself would be unjustifiable. In these days, the
problem of noise pollution has become more serious with the increasing trend
towards industrialization, urbanization and modernization and is having many
evil effects including danger to the health. It may cause interruption of
sleep, affect communication, loss of efficiency, hearing loss or deafness, high
blood pressure, depression, irritability, fatigue, gastro-intestinal problems,
allergy, distraction, mental stress and annoyance etc. This also affects
extent of damage depends upon the duration and the intensity of noise.
Sometimes it leads to serious law and order problem. Further, in an organized
society, rights are related with duties towards others including neighbours.
this background in mind, we would narrate the facts in brief for resolving the
controversy involved in the present case. This appeal by special leave is filed
against the judgment and order dated 19.4.1999 passed by the High Court of
Judicature at Madras in Criminal O.P. No. 61 of 1998.
The appellant is the Church of God (Full Gospel) (Church for short) located at K.K.R. Nagar, Madhavaram
High Road, Chennai. It has a prayer hall for the Pentecostal Christians and is
provided with musical instruments such as drum set, triple gango, guitar etc.
No.1-KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association (Welfare Association for short)
made a complaint on 15.5.1996 to the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board
(hereinafter referred to as the Board) stating therein that prayers in the
Church were recited by using loudspeakers, drums and other sound producing
instruments which caused noise pollution thereby disturbing and causing
nuisance to the normal day life of the residents of the said colony. Complaints
were also made to the Superintendent of Police and the Inspector of
Police--respondents Nos 5 and 6 respectively. The Joint Chief Environmental
Engineer of the Boardrespondent No.4 herein on 23.5.1996 addressed a letter to
respondent No.5, the Superintendent of Police, Chengai MGR District (East),
Chennai, to take action on the complaint. On 12.6.1996, respondent No.4 again
addressed a letter to respondent No.5 enclosing therewith the analysis report
of the Ambient noise level survey conducted in the vicinity of the appellants
church hall which disclosed that noise pollution was due to plying of vehicles
on the Madhavaram High Road. Respondent No.1 gave representations to various
officials in this regard. Thereafter respondent No.1Welfare Association filed
Criminal O.P. No.61 of 1998 before the High Court of Madras for a direction to
respondent Nos. 5 and 6 to take action on the basis of the letter issued by
respondent No.4. In the High Court, it was contended by learned counsel for the
Church that the petition was filed with an oblique motive in order to prevent a
religious minority institution from pursuing its religious activities and the
Court cannot issue any direction to prevent the Church from practicing its
religious beliefs. It was also submitted that the noise pollution was due to
plying of vehicles and not due to use of loudspeakers etc.
learned Judge referred to the decision of the High Court in Appa Rao, M.S. v.
Government of Tamil Nadu & Another (1995-1 L.W. (Vol.115) 319) where certain
guidelines have been laid down for controlling the noise pollution. In Appa Raos
case, the Division Bench of the Madras High Court after considering the
contentions raised by the parties and decisions cited therein and also to the
provisions of Section 41 and 71(a) of the Madras City Police Act, 1888 and
Section 10 of the Madras Town Nuisance Act, 1989 has issued directions to the
Government for controlling the noise pollution and for the use of amplifiers
and loudspeakers. In the said case, the Court has observed that the grievances
of the petitioners, who have complained with regard to the noise pollution were
fully justified and the authorities concerned were turning or made to turn by
the higher powers a Nelsons eye to the violation of rules and regulations in
these matters. The Court also considered copy of an article which appeared in
the August, 1982 Issue of Science Today and a copy of the ICMR Bulletin of
July, 1979 containing a Study on Noise Pollution in South India wherein it is
pointed out that noise pollution will lead to serious nervous disorders,
emotional tension leading to high blood-pressure, cardiovascular diseases,
increase in cholesterol level resulting in heart attacks and strokes and even
damage to foetus.
learned Single Judge also referred to other decisions and directed respondent
Nos.5 and 6 to follow the guidelines issued in Appa Raos case (Supra) and to
take necessary steps to bring down the noise level to the permitted extent by
taking action against the vehicles which make noise and also by making the
Church to keep their speakers at a lower level. He further held that the Survey
report submitted by the Board would go to show that the Church was not the sole
contributor of the noise and it appeared that the interference of noise was
also due to plying of vehicles. The learned Judge pointed out that there was
nothing of malice and malicious wish to cause any hindrance to the free
practice of religious faith of the Church and if the noise created by the
Church exceeds the permissible decibels then it has to be abated. Aggrieved by
the said order, this appeal is filed by the Church.
Krishnan, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of appellant contended
that the High Court has failed to note that the two survey reports of the
Pollution Control Board clearly attributed the noise pollution in the area in
question to the vehicular traffic and not to any of the activities of the
appellant-Church and, therefore, direction issued in respect of controlling the
noise ought not to have been extended in respect of the appellant-Church; that
the High Court has overlooked that the right to profess and practice
Christianity is protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India
which cannot be dislodged by directing the authorities to have a check on the
appellant-Church; and that the judgment relied upon by the High Court in Appa Raos
case (Supra) did not empower the authorities to interfere with the religious
practices of any community.
learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents contended that the
appellant-Church has deliberately tried to give religious colour to this cause
of action as respondent no.1 - Welfare Association is consisting of members
belonging to all religions as found by the High Court. It is contended that
even if the contention of the appellant-Churchthat the noise created by it is
within the prescribed limitis taken as it is, the order passed by the High
Court will not in any way prejudice the right of religious practice of appellant
because the order of the High Court is only with regard to reducing the noise
pollution in that area. It is further contended that the High Court can pass
orders to protect and preserve a very fundamental right of citizen under
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. He relied upon the judgment of
Calcutta High Court in Om Birangana Religious Society v.
State and others [CWN 1995-96 (Vol.100) 617] wherein the Court dealt with a
similar matter. The questions posed by the Court for consideration werewhether
the public are captive audience or listener when permission is given for using
loud-speakers in public and the person who is otherwise unwilling to bear the
sound and/or the music or the communication made by the loud-speakers, but he
is compelled to tolerate all these things against his will and health? Does it
concern simply a law and order situation? Does it not generate sound pollution?
Does it not affect the other known rights of a citizen? Even if a citizen is
ill and even if such a sound may create adverse effect on his physical and
mental condition, yet he is made a captive audience to listen. The High Court
cannot be said that the religious teachers or the spiritual leaders who had
laid down these tenets, had any way desired the use of microphones as a means
of performance of religion. Undoubtedly, one can practice, profess and
propagate religion, as guaranteed under Article 25(1) of the Constitution but
that is not an absolute right. The provision of Article 25 is subject to the
provisions of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. On true and proper
construction of the provision of Article 25(1), read with Article 19(1)(a) of
the Constitution, it cannot be said that a citizen should be coerced to hear
any thing which he does not like or which he does not require.
the High Court laid down certain guidelines for the Pollution Control Board for
grant of permission to use loudspeakers and to maintain noise level in West Bengal.
view, the contentions raised by the learned counsel for the appellant deserves
to be rejected because the direction given by the learned Judge to the
authorities is only to follow the guidelines laid down in Appa Raos case
decided by the Division Bench of the same High Court on the basis of the Madras
City Police Act, 1888 and the Madras Towns Nuisance Act, 1889. It is also in
conformity with the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 framed
by the Central Government under the provisions of the Environment (Protection)
Act, 1986 read with rule 5 of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. Rule 3
of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 provides for
ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for different areas/zones as
specified in the Schedule annexed to the rule which is as under:- Ambient Air
Quality Standards in respec t of Noise __ Area Code Category of Area/ Limits in
dB(A) Leq. Night Time Zone Day Time@@
JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJIIIIIIIIII (A) Industrial Area 75 70 (B)
Commercial Area 65 55 (C) Residential Area 55 45 (D) Silence Zone 50 40 Note:-
(1) Day time shall mean from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm.
Night time shall mean from 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.
Silence zone is defined as an area comprising not less than 100 metres around
hospitals, educational institutions and courts. The silence zones are zones
which are declared as such by the competent authority. (4) Mixed categories of
areas may be declared as one of the four above-mentioned categories by the
relevant rules for controlling noise pollution are: -
Responsibility as to enforcement of noise pollution control measures.
The noise levels in any area/zone shall not exceed the ambient air quality
standards in respect of noise as specified in the Schedule.
The authority shall be responsible for the enforcement of noise pollution
control measures and the due compliance of the ambient air quality standards in
respect of noise.
Restrictions on the use of loudspeakers/public address system.
loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used except after
obtaining written permission from the authority.
loud speaker 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
conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls.
Consequences of any violation in silence zone/area.
in any place covered under the silence zone/area commits any of the following
offence, he shall be liable for penalty under the provisions of the Act:- (i)
whoever, plays any music or uses any sound amplifiers, (ii) whoever, beats a
drum or tom-tom or blows a horn either musical or pressure, or trumpet or beats
or sounds any instrument, or (iii) whoever, exhibits any mimetic, musical or
other performances of a nature to attract crowds.
Complaints to be made to the authority.
person may, if the noise level exceeds the ambient noise standards by 10 dB(A)
or more given in the corresponding columns against any area/zone, make a
complaint to the authority.
The authority shall act on the complaint and take action against the violator
in accordance with the provisions of these rules and any other law in force.
Power to prohibit etc. continuance of music sound or noise.
the authority is satisfied from the report of an officer incharge of a police
station or other information received by him that it is necessary to do so in
order to prevent annoyance, disturbance, discomfort or injury or risk of annoyance,
disturbance, discomfort or injury to the public or to any person who dwell or
occupy property on the vicinity, he may, by a written order issue such
directions as he may consider necessary to any person for preventing,
prohibiting, controlling or regulating:- (a) the incidence or continuance in or
upon any premises of- (i) any vocal or instrumental music, (ii) sounds caused
by playing, beating, clashing, blowing or use in any manner whatsoever of any
instrument including loudspeakers, public address systems, appliance or
apparatus or contrivance which is capable of producing or re-producing sound,
or (b) the carrying or in or upon, any premises of any trade, avocation or
operation or process resulting in or attended with noise.
The authority empowered under sub-rule (1) may, either on its own motion, or on
the application of any person aggrieved by an order made under sub-rule (1),
either rescind, modify or alter any such order:
that before any such application is disposed of, the said authority shall
afford to the applicant an opportunity of appearing before it either in person
or by a person representing him and showing cause against the order and shall,
if it rejects any such application either wholly or in part, record its reasons
for such rejection.
rules are unambiguous, clear and speak for themselves. Considering the same, it
cannot be said that the directions issued by the High Court are in any manner
illegal or erroneous.
present case, the contention with regard to the rights under Article 25 or
Article 26 of the Constitution which are subject to public order, morality and
health are not required to be dealt with in detail mainly because as stated
earlier no religion prescribes or preaches that prayers are required to be
performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums. In any case, if
there is such practice, it should not adversely affect the rights of others
including that of being not disturbed in their activities. We would only refer
to some observations made by the Constitution Bench of this Court qua rights
under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution in Acharya Maharajshri Narendra Prasadji
Anand Prasadji Maharaj and Others v. The State of Gujarat & Others [(1975) 1 SCC 11].
considering the various contentions, the Court observed that no rights in an
organized society can be absolute. Enjoyment of ones rights must be consistent
with the enjoyment of rights also by others. Where in a free play of social
forces it is not possible to bring about a voluntary harmony, the State has to
step in to set right the imbalance between competing interests. The Court also
observed that a particular fundamental right cannot exist in isolation in a
water-tight compartment. One Fundamental Right of a person may have to co-exist
in harmony with the exercise of another Fundamental Right by others also with
reasonable and valid exercise of power by the State in the light of the
Directive Principles in the interests of social welfare as a whole. Further, it
is to be stated that because of urbanization or industrialization the noise
pollution may in some area of a city/town might be exceeding permissible limits
prescribed under the rules, but that would not be a ground for permitting
others to increase the same by beating of drums or by use of voice amplifiers,
loudspeakers or by such other musical instruments and, therefore, rules
prescribing reasonable restrictions including the rules for the use of
loudspeakers and voice amplifiers framed under the Madras Town Nuisance Act,
1889 and also the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 are
required to be enforced . We would mention that even though the Rules are
unambiguous, there is lack of awareness among the citizens as well as the
Implementation Authorities about the Rules or its duty to implement the same.
Noise polluting activities which are rampant and yet for one reason or the
other, the aforesaid Rules or the rules framed under various State Police Acts
are not enforced. Hence, the High Court has rightly directed implementation of
the same. In the result, the appeal is dismissed.