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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Waving 4-yr-old order, UP govt removes 10,900 loudspeakers

Under this exercise, a total of 6,031 loudspeakers were removed and volume of 29,674 loudspeakers was set within permissible limits till Wednesday afternoon, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said.

Written by Maulshree Seth | Lucknow |
Updated: April 28, 2022 7:10:08 am
Loudspeakers are being removed from all religious places without any discrimination, Kumar said. (Representational image)

Amid rising tensions in Maharashtra over the use of loudspeakers in places of worship, the UP government said that it removed over 10,900 “illegal” and “unauthorised” loudspeakers across the state by 4.30 pm on Wednesday following directions from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to implement guidelines laid down by courts on the issue.

Most of the loudspeakers removed were from Lucknow (2,395) and Gorakhpur (1,788) zones, officials said. Besides, over 35,000 loudspeakers across the state were brought under prescribed decibel limits, they said.

“There is an existing government order of 2018, and there are set rules for sound decibel limits and court directions. Districts have been directed to ensure the implementation of the same with firmness now. They have been asked to submit reports by April 30 about the implementation,” UP Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi told The Indian Express.

“Over 10,000 loudspeakers have been removed and the drive is still on. The focus is to ensure the implementation of guidelines through dialogue, making everyone understand the norms through awareness. Many have removed unauthorised loudspeakers on their own,” UP Police ADG (law and order) Prashant Kumar told The Indian Express.

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Asked about the process followed in enforcing the Chief Minister’s orders, Kumar said: “The thumb rule is that the noise or the sound should not go beyond the premises. For instance, if a premise has five loudspeakers, upto three loudspeakers may be removed to ensure that the sound is limited to the premises while people are able to undertake their normal religious activities as well.”

Kumar said the “best part” about the government’s action was that it involved “voluntary” participation from those affected. “We are telling them about the adverse impact, the court orders and the noise levels. Nowhere is this being done in a coercive manner. Be it temples, mosques or gurdwaras, people are doing it voluntarily,” he said.

Lucknow-based Sunni cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali and Balrampur’s Shakti Peeth Devipatan temple priest Mithilesh Nath Yogi were among religious leaders who issued appeals endorsing the government move.

Maulana Khalid said he has asked all mosques under his jurisdiction to take down extra loudspeakers and limit the sound of remaining devices. “These directives are following court orders and for the benefit of future generations…not against any particular religion but for all. It is beneficial for us and our children, and keeping noise pollution in mind. It is my appeal to follow this law completely,” he said.

Mithilesh Nath Yogi said three out of four loudspeakers have been removed from the temple. “Communal harmony and security of the region are important. We are endorsing the government’s move…The loud noise obstructs children’s studies and troubles people early in the morning. Thus, it is our appeal to follow the government’s directives, take out extra loudspeakers and reduce sound in the rest,” he said.

Last week, Adityanath had instructed officials to ensure that decibel limits are set for loudspeakers, and sound levels restricted. The government subsequently directed districts to ensure that “illegal” loudspeakers are removed and those authorised follow “correct decibel limits”. It also directed the police to prepare a list of violators, including places of worship, and to ensure the implementation of rules through dialogue with religious leaders.

Official sources said district administrations have been asked to share existing norms under the Noise Pollution (regulation and control) Rules, 2000. The rules prescribe separate decibel levels for industrial, commercial, residential zones — and “silence zones”, which are less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions, courts and religious places or any other designated area.

In October 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional validity of a provision introduced by the Centre in 2002 in the noise pollution rules of 2000. This provision allowed states to conditionally permit the use of loudspeakers or public address systems between 10 pm to midnight “on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding 15 days in all during a calendar year”.

In all other cases, the apex court said, “no one shall beat a drum or tom-tom or blow a trumpet or beat or sound any instrument or use any sound amplifier at night (between 10 pm and 6 am) except in public emergencies”.

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Several High Courts, including the Lucknow High Court, have also laid down guidelines on the use of loudspeakers.

On April 19, the Bombay High Court said it will hear on June 14 a plea filed in 2018, seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for alleged non-compliance of directions issued against “illegal” installation of loudspeakers at religious places.

The court hearing came amid escalating tensions in Maharashtra over an ultimatum issued by MNS chief Raj Thackeray who warned of “repercussions” if loudspeakers are not removed from mosques by May 3 after the Ramzan period ends.

(With Ananthakrishnan G in New Delhi)

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