Not preventing noise pollution amounts to dereliction of duty and is an offence under pollution control laws, warned the High Court on Monday. Pulling up the authorities, the court also said they can be imprisoned for up to five years for it.
A division bench consisting of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna directed the Karnataka Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to frame guidelines to check noise pollution in the state and file an affidavit specifying its plans to prevent the menace.
It also directed the Home Department to file another affidavit through an officer of rank not less than commissioner stating that they are aware of the noise pollution guidelines and would strive to prevent it.
The court also directed the government to conduct workshops to educate inspectors and officers about sound pollution and the powers they have to stop it.
The bench came down heavily on KSPCB for failing to record noise levels and to inform the police about the increasing noise levels. It lambasted the KSPCB for submitting that it was not empowered to take action against offenders in residential areas and that it can act only against industries.
The bench said, “The statute empowers you to act against everyone who causes pollution and you are citing a circular to make such submissions. You are creating conflict because you do not want to act. The police commissioner says no one has told him anything about it and you say you are not authorised to do it. Twenty years have elapsed since you were constituted and you don’t know your responsibilities. How can you create awareness? You want us to do things for you.”
Reading from the statute, the bench said, “The state government has the responsibility to ensure that sound levels do not exceed prescribed ambient pollution levels. You are shunning your responsibilities. You have destroyed the city.”
When KSPCB submitted that it had recorded noise pollution levels near the Ubhaya Vedantha Pravarthana Sabha in Malleswaram where sound levels exceeded the prescribed limits, the bench observed, “You did not do anything to stop it. You measure the sound levels only when someone complains. What will you do to prevent sound levels when no one complains?” The court also took the police to task for not doing anything even after data about sound levels were handed over to them.
Malleswaram Residents Welfare Association had filed a writ petition requesting the court to direct authorities to stop noise pollution caused due to commercial activities at Ubhaya Vedantha Pravarthana Sabha and other establishments in residential areas. While submitting a document prepared by consultant neuropsychiatrist Dr Deepak Pawar, the association contended that if sound pollution levels cross 55 decibels in residential areas it can disturb the sleep-awake regime of the body, cause stress, anxiety and depression due to irritation, which could in turn lead to morbidity, neuropsychological disturbances, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, neuroticism, cardiovascular system disturbances, hypertension, cardiac diseases, digestive disorders and ulcers.
Building Bylaw Violations
As the association had alleged that the respondents had constructed a kalyana mantap and other structures in violation of building bylaws, the court had directed BBMP to specify the action taken by it to prevent violations and commercial activities in residential areas.
The BBMP submitted before the court that it had registered 2,818 cases of building bylaw violations and stays have been obtained in many cases. The BBMP said that 1,274 of these cases are before the civil court and some of them were not maintainable. While adjourning the case to March 14, the bench directed the BBMP to prepare a list of cases that are not maintainable.