The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More teeth to noise-check law

Keep enough cash in your pocket or be prepared to spend time behind bars before putting up loudspeakers or microphones — or even playing the music system too loud — in silence zones.

The Centre is all set to amend noise pollution rules to make them more stringent. And, according to the proposed amendment, the police will be empowered to take “on-the-spot” action against violators of noise pollution rules.

Cops, on the basis of a complaint, can seize the decibel devils, impose spot fines and book violators, under the proposed rules.

The amendment will also authorise police to keep the loudspeakers or microphones in their custody and give offenders a fortnight’s notice for payment of the fine.

If offenders fail to cough up the fine within the stipulated date, they are liable to be arrested and sentenced to jail.

“Causing any kind of sound pollution within 100 metres of hospitals, educational institutions and religious places will be banned,” said member-secretary of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, S.K. Sarkar.

“There are provisions in the existing rules to punish the offenders, but most of the accused go scot-free in the absence of specific directives regarding punishment,” he added.

According to the member-secretary, offenders often take advantage of the lengthy prosecution process.

Police now have “very little power” to effectively deal with the accused. “If police are given more power and the prosecution system is simplified, offenders can easily be booked,” stressed Sarkar.

Cops, at present, are within their rights to pull down and even seize or dismantle loudspeakers or microphones. But they can neither impose fines nor prosecute offenders.

“The local police station must refer the case to the competent authority for necessary action,” Sarkar elaborated.

The ministry of environment and forests framed the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules in 2000, on the basis of the judgment passed by then Green Bench judge of Calcutta High Court Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee.

“I had passed the order in 1996 to prevent noise pollution. Later, the apex court asked all other the states to follow the verdict,” recounted Justice Banerjee, adding that he had prepared a draft amendment for the existing Act following a request from the Centre.

“West Bengal happens to be the pioneer in noise-pollution control. But despite continued violation of the pollution norms by a section of people, no effective measures have been taken against them due to some loopholes in the rules,” he added, ruing how “not a single person has so far been sent to jail for violating sound-pollution norms”.

Joint commissioner of police Kuldiep Singh welcomed the move. “If the local police are given full powers, the sound pollution menace can be curbed effectively,’’ he said on Tuesday.

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