ACCUSED OF playing music above permitted decibel levels during immersion of Ganesha idols during Ganesh Chaturthi, 28 people were convicted and handed an unusual punishment by the Girgaum Metropolitan Magistrate court on Thursday.
Each of them was directed to submit a potted plant to court officials along with a fine of Rs 5,000. “After we were served summons last week to remain present before court Thursday, we thought the magistrate will order us to pay a hefty fine. We had accordingly carried money but when the magistrate ordered us to get a potted plant… we were puzzled,” said Ajay Khopkar, who works as a clerk in a government office in South Mumbai. However, after consulting with their lawyers, they went to the nearest market and brought a potted plant to the court.
The order stated, “Since the case is pertaining to the Environment Protection Act, accused is directed to submit a potted plant as part of pledge of conservation and environment.”
Like him, 27 others were also present in Girgaum court and were punished for playing music over permitted decibel levels. They were convicted under rule 5 of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Act, 2000, and section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
“In 15 instances, 30 people were booked by two police stations in 2017 and 2018,” an official said. As two of them did not come to court, they were given another date to remain present.
The accused were ordered to report to court at 11 am. After they were presented in front of the magistrate A R Rahane, she asked them whether they pleaded guilty. “I thought if we plead guilty, the magistrate might give us a warning and leave us, but I was shocked that instead she ordered us to get plants,” said Ganesh Rawal, a Walkeshwar resident.
He was booked in 2017 when he was taking his mandal’s Ganesha idol to Girgaum chowpatty for immersion.
He said, “A constable came and measured with his decibel meter. At that exact time, another mandal… happened to overtake our procession. I am certain he must have collectively measured with his decibel meter.”
Police served him a notice, following which Rawal was asked to submit a response to the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Gamdevi division).
Vasant Bonde, who plays musical instruments during Ganesha visarjan, said, “I have been playing instruments for the last 10 years but this was the first time I was penalised… I was shocked when the magistrate ordered us to buy a plant and submit it to the court as punishment.”