The Telegraph
Friday , February 22 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tweak in exam mike norms

The state government has robbed students of their peace of mind ahead of board exams by tweaking norms on microphone use, triggering charges of violation of judicial orders.

The 15 lakh candidates of board tests in the state may find it hard to focus on studies following an environment department notification that “cancels all earlier orders” on the use of microphones during major public exams.

The latest notification — issued by environment secretary Trilochan Singh on February 5 — prohibits “the use of microphone or loudspeaker in residential areas or where educational institutions are situated three days prior to the commencement of secondary and higher secondary examinations by any board or council till completion...”.

Less than a month ago, the department had issued an order banning the use of microphones/loudspeakers “in open areas” for the same period.

Every year, the government issues a notification before the start of the exam season to enforce the high court ban, later upheld by the Supreme Court, on the use of loudspeakers in the open.

Former high court justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee, who had issued the ban in the late 1990s, said the inclusion of the words “residential areas or where educational institutions are situated” had made the February 5 notification a “device to violate” the court order.

“The ban on the use of microphones and loudspeakers in the open during board exams cannot be replaced by a ban in residential areas or around educational institutions.... This is an illegal modification of the high court order and amounts to its violation.”

Lawyer Gitanath Ganguly, former high court-appointed special officer to control noise norm violation, said the high court ban on the use of loudspeakers in “open areas” was upheld by the Supreme Court. “If the state government wants to change the norms, it will have to move the apex court with an appeal”.

Last year, too, the authorities had sought to confine the ban to residential zones and areas where educational hubs were located but had to backtrack following a public outcry. Officials doubt whether the same would happen this year because of the panchayat polls.

Environment department officials admitted that the February notification would create confusion. “The order is open to interpretation. According to some, the ban extends across the state. But many feel there is enough room for violation. If the order is challenged in court, the government may have to issue a fresh one,” said an official.

Court order

The high court on Thursday asked the state pollution control board to measure air pollution in the city at night and file a report. It also asked the board to measure sound pollution in the city. The order followed a plea by environment activist Subhas Datta.