Topic: Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v/s K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare Assn

Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v/s K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare Assn
Bench: M B Shah, J., S.N. Phukan, J. - Date of Judgment: 30/08/2000

Shah, J.

Leave granted.

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 be honoured.

Under 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 animals alike. The 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.

Keeping 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. Respondent 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Mr. G. 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.

The 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. The 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 held that:

It     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.

Thereafter, 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.

In     our 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@@

(A)     Industrial Area     75     70
(B)     Commercial Area     65     55
(C)     Residential Area     55     45
(D)     Silence Zone     50     40


(1) Day time shall mean from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm.
(2) Night time shall mean from 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.

(3) 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 competent authority.

Other relevant rules for controlling noise pollution are: -

4.     Responsibility as to enforcement of noise pollution control measures.

(1) The noise levels in any area/zone shall not exceed the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise as specified in the Schedule.

(2) 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.

5.     Restrictions    on the use of     loudspeakers/public address system.

(1) A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from     the authority.

(2) A 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 within,    e.g. auditoria, conference    rooms, community halls    and banquet halls.

6. Consequences of any violation in silence zone/area.

Whoever, 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.

7. Complaints to be made to the authority.

(1) A 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.

(2) 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.

8. Power to prohibit etc. continuance of music sound or noise.

(1) If 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.

(2) 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:

Provided 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.

Aforesaid    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.

In     the 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]. After 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.