Nov 28

                                                

On 9 November 2007, the Supreme Court gave its decision in a case where, in simplified terms, the right of one party to use loudspeakers was weighed against the annoyance, disturbance and harm caused to those other parties who are compelled against their will to listen to the amplified sounds which emanate from these loudspeakers.  This judgment has been greatly acclaimed.  However, some readers may not have had the opportunity of reading the entirety of the order, which contains much valuable information regarding the position of the law in respect of noise pollution, especially that caused by the inconsiderate use of loudspeakers.  In the belief that more citizens should be made acquainted with the essence of the judgment, the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) examines some of the highlights.

One issue considered by the Court was whether it was permissible to force members of the general public to become captive listeners – in violation of their right to silence and the quiet enjoyment of property – on the grounds that a noise, which is an annoyance to the neighbourhood, is protected if it is made in the course of a religious ceremony, particularly if the Police have issued a license for the use of loudspeakers under Section 90 of the Police Ordinance of 1865.  The Court held that nobody can claim the fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound of his speech with the help of loudspeakers because, just as much as one has the right of speech, others have the right to listen or decline to listen.  Nobody has the right to make his voice trespass into the ears or minds of others.

As for the religious aspect, the Court has stated clearly that no religious body is entitled, by reason of claimed religious practice, to commit a public nuisance.  A police permit is not a protection against being charged for creating a public nuisance under Section 261 of the Penal Code.  The Court has indicated that there is no requirement in the teachings of any religion that loudspeakers should be used in its rituals.  Indeed, all of us know that, for a large proportion of the life of the major religions, loudspeakers did not even exist.  Happily, judging by the letters appearing in our national newspapers, many of the complaints against Muslim loudspeaker noise come from Muslims themselves and many of the complaints against Buddhist loudspeaker noise come from Buddhists.  There has not been much comment from the followers of the other religions, which may, perhaps, be taken as their acceptance of the reasonableness and fairness of the order of the Court.

Historically, there is reason to believe that the increasing use of loudspeakers in Sri Lanka for religious purposes owes its origin to a Atit-for-tat factor, which has built up over the years since the early 20th century, and that it is this factor that is at the heart of the competitive amplification of religious sounds.  It is very much to be hoped for that this rivalry will cease as a result of the Supreme Court’s judgment.  The Court also made it quite clear that Sri Lanka is a secular state and, constitutionally, protecting the environment and safeguarding public health require that there can be no exceptions to accommodate the perceived religious propensities of one group or another.  The idea must not be entertained that an annoying noise is protected if it is made in the course of a religious ceremony. No religion advocates a practice that would cause harm to an-other or damage the environment or create a health hazard.

The Court also held that a great deal of harm is done to schoolchildren, whose studies are disturbed and to sick people, whose recovery from illness is retarded.  It noted that noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress.

Even if a permit is given under Section 90 of the Police Ordinance, the noise emitted from the sound amplification equipment should not be allowed to extend beyond the precincts of the particular premises.  This would apply to outdoor musical performances, too.  A sufficient number of Police Officers should be designated and posted to the particular place of use to ensure that the conditions imposed are strictly complied with.  This stipulation, if properly implemented, should take care of the absurd demands of those who donate amplifying equipment to temples, kovils, mosques and churches and then insist that the whole neighbourhood should be made aware of their philanthropy by broadcasting not only religious material but much other rubbish at ear-splitting levels of volume.

CIMOGG strongly deplores the opportunistic efforts of certain persons who have tried to make cheap political capital out of this issue in order to gain the votes of religious noise-makers and the outdoor musical fraternity.

We believe that any remnants of ill-informed opposition to the order of the Supreme Court should be eradicated by all senior religious leaders stating categorically that the use of loudspeakers is not required for the practice of their respective religions other than to reach their congregations within the boundaries of their premises.  Musical artistes should hold their outdoor performances in open ground, away from residential areas, as is done in countries which do not tolerate any forms of public nuisance.



84 Responses to “SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT ON NOISE POLLUTION”

  1. Ravindu Peiris Says:

    This appears to only consider the noise created by loudspeakers and other sound amplifying equipment. What about the disruption of studies and education by way of industrial work and machinery? Does the noise pollution and nuisance cover that aspect as well?

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  19. Ritigala Jayasena Says:

    Loudspeaker usage by mosques and temples

    A clear law prohibiting unauthorized usage of loudspeakers was envisioned by environmental authority, and was passed by Sri Lanka, a few years ago. However, if you drive through a main road at dusk and dawn, you will hear how well this law has been implemented. There are so many temples with blaring loudspeakers chanting ‘pirith’ and other religious stuff, and mosques continue to announce their prayer time with the maximum volume that they can. It is true that mosques only use the loudspeaker for less than 5 mins at a time, and it is the temples that become a major ‘pain in the ear’ for those who in the neighborhood do not agree with loudspeaker ‘prayers’. The temples that commit this atrocity usually use their sound systems continuously for a few hours at dusk and dawn every day.

    These religious groups assume that they have an unchallengeable right to conduct their noisy activities, even in a neighborhood where there are people that do not agree with, or are inconvenienced by the noise. Religious institutions have scant regard to the individual needs of the neighborhood. They believe that they can impose their decisions on the followers of their religion, and any others who are inconvenienced by their act, have to remain silent.

    Noise pollution by religious groups is apparently not a ‘Sri Lanka only’ phenomenon, and its prevalence is a very good indicator for a country’s immaturity in terms of respecting individual needs. Places of worship that are situated in countries that respect individual freedoms, have to do their prayers silently, without disturbing the whole neighborhood.

    It would be interesting to dig the history of widespread loudspeaker usage by the places of worship. If I am not mistaken, this trend started in late 80s. Islam governs entire mundane life of a follower and dictates even the time that they should wake up in the morning, and also the time finish the daily activities in the evening. The loudspeaker usage by Mosques for this purpose, seem to have been also picked up by the temples that believe that temple should decide when people should go to bed and wake up in the morning.

    In a liberal and complex society, individuals will decide what their daily routine is. The temples cannot dictate the time a whole neighborhood wakes up. If there are individuals who prefer to work till late in the night, and wake up very late in the morning, directing blaring noise at their bedrooms by the nearby temple at wee hours of the morning is a blatant violation of individual freedom.

    The difficulty in imposing an existing law regarding noise pollution, is an indication of undue and uncalled for privileges given to religious institutions. This is another example for the need for the separation of religion and governance!

  20. Ritigala Jayasena Says:

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  22. Anton Fernando Says:

    Please see our story here. We live in Daluwakotuwa off the Negombo- Chillaw road. Adjacent to ours and a handful of neighbors’ backyards are a daycare center and a music school, which gradually transformed into a so-called international school. They are using loudspeakers all year round mainly to get more publicity to the school since it is located in Negombo-Chillow main road, openly violating the rights of the neighbors who deserve a serine environment. In a typical day they starts singing hymns with music using laud speakers, if it is your lucky day they would not use drums to accompany the hymns. They usually have about 3, 4 yearly concerts, which use loudspeakers again not for the betterment of the students but to get the cheap publicity. During these “concert seasons” they practice whole day for concerts and beating of the drum will make the neighbors sick. Even if there are hardly about 75 pupils in the entire school, they practice for the march, like the SL army does it for the independent day celebration. You would not hear your telephone ringing when they start doing this. You will not be able to answer a call anyway. If you have infants or elderly patients home you would better send them to a relatives place until the “concert session” is over. One of my neighbors has complained to the environmental Authority and the Presidential secretariat. Environmental authority has made an enquiry. However we have not noticed any change in their habits. If anyone points out what we should do about this, we will greatly appreciate.

  23. Tori Pinkenburg Says:

    I have been in need of this type of post for a while. I’m publishing a school paper about this and this is going to help me. Thank you.

  24. siva Says:

    We live in multi ethnic and religious area within Dehiwala municipality.here one neighbor who recently got rich name of earn merit for him or show off his power of newly gain riches throws tamashas or all night ceremonies and middle of the night blast crackers making nights to sleepless for kids, sick,people who go for work next morning making difficult after sleepless night . what ever he gain merit he gets curse of all the people round. suggest some thing neighbor should do avoid this situation. I wonder why Buddhist monks not advise him not to do inhuman and cruel acts which is anti-social.

  25. Thilanka Says:

    To whom we should complain if we can see Noise Pollution?

  26. buddhadasa Says:

    I live in Kiribathgoda area. I am a practicing buddhist and meditate. The biggest hinderance to my practice comes from three temples nearby. I get a dose of pirith chanting and other religious activities over loudspeakers each morning and evening. It is unfortunate that the Noble Silence advocated by Buddha is violated by very institutions who have undertaken to uphold the teachings of Buddha. I sincerely wish if the leading monks in the country educate the other monks on these values.

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  33. Bren Says:

    It is amazing that noise pollution continues in spite of the clear ruling of the Supreme court. Is it due to the lack of calcium in the spines of the Police in most parts of the country, in that, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian places of “worship”blatantly irritate the audio faculties of the suffering public.
    The cops will say that there are no public complaints. In this situ we have to assume that they are “deaf as door mice”. If a driver “jumps a red light” he/she is prosecuted without a public complaint!
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  35. sanjiv Says:

    Any idea how or to whom we can complain in cases like this? am on a road with three temples… the police are pretty useless..

  36. Puma Hammar Gautamadasa Says:

    Am overjoyed to find this informative website. I MAY ACTUALLY HAVE A CASE!
    My family and I are considering moving elsewhere as we are woken up every morning 5am by 2 hour sessions of recorded prayers blasting through the loudspeakers of a nearby temple. This being followed by monotone hooting melodies through the loudspeakers of 3-wheelers with vendors of bread, milk etc. We moved to the countryside for the sake of peace and quiet – there is none of it to find in our village early morning!
    I have written a letter (nice and polite) to the temple and have spoken to the monk, but to no avail. Our neighbours claim to be as bothered as we are, but dare not complain.
    What can I do?
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  37. pooh Says:

    HI ,

    here this is our case , we are near to malabe modern school,They are using loudspeakers all year round mainly to get more publicity I think, they playing music from 6.30 am till the school start at 7.30, and we cant stay at our home because of the noise, even we cant answer to the phone, and when we complaind to the principles are soo dumb they saying this is a school and school need sounds, and some times when we complain to the principles they saying ah wadi da? and incresing the volume, when they have a special events like sports meet they playing all the loudspeakers day before the sports meet and the event day also, all the scool meetings can be listen from of places clear ly, My mom is sick my grand ma cant stay with the noise and I am doing a job at my home, but for me even cant work in peace mind because of the noise, I complained this to ministry of education also they also like is that ah ok thats all, please some one tell me where to complain these matters in sri lanka, and please someone listen to these matters

    best regards

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  39. Also suffering from noise Says:

    The police and Central Environmental Agency are the ones that should do something to stop noise pollution. They can luckily be reached on the Internet. Try:
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  40. Suranee Says:

    I think it’s high time a law is passed here in Sri Lanka to prosecute people who make noise in neighborhoods disrupting the peace and harassing residents when we ask the culprits to keep the noise level down.

    I have been suffering from this form of abuse by two Muslim men who are non-residents in my neighborhood and after informing the owner of the house (also a Muslim and related to a politician), these men still tend to make noise at times along with their families. My children find it difficult to study and I am now psychologically traumatized.

    I have even complained to the Defense Ministry about this.

    I sincerely hope there is a law passed for ‘Neighborhood Abuse’ here in Sri Lanka. Does someone have to be killed in a neighborhood before such a law is implemented? I ask this because if such noisemakers have no regard for other people’s right to live peacefully and quietly, then who knows if their capable of going to the extent of murdering residents who request these ‘noise makers’ to keep the noise down.

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    Hi, just to clarify, there is a restaurant that has programmes at least twice or three times a week and sometimes the music goes until the wee hours of the morning. This is situated just next to our road and its slap bang next to the house where we live, a school, a church and a residential neighbourhood. Just to clarify is the time that sound should be stopped 10pm or 11pm?

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    Then yesterday, the noise began a bit later than usual and went on all night and through the dawn ending after 6 o’ clock in the morning!

    They say that this is being done because it was at around this time of the year, several years back, that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. So does that mean they are going to do this every year?

    Please note that this is all EXTREMELY loud and even the lights are very bright. I for one, was unable to sleep a wink last night. Now it seems that it may be the same way tonight as well.

    Seriously, isn’t there some way we can all take this problem to the government and make them ensure that this kind of thing is stopped island-wide?

  78. Priya Says:

    Well my neighborhood is currently suffering from noise pollution. Its 11.00 pm and some party or show is going on in negombo close to old rest house and the police station is nearby too. We cannot sleep. The noise is so loud. Its a common occurence here. There are children and old people in the neighbourhood too. We dont see anyone coming to the rescue of the residents and exercising the law. If I am correct you need special permission to use loudspeakers at night especially in residentail areas as per country laws. Seek help #negombomunicipalcouncil#

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  82. Jayantha Pushpakumara Says:

    I am operating tourist villa in ambalangoda .we have big prochildren’s .h bread selling vans and threewhellers there are 4 bread mans start selling bread at5.30am to 8.30 using louskeper music .
    Its rely troubles for tourist who stay with us .also school childrens.sick people and elderly people .
    Let me know how to stop this

  83. Jeevitha Says:

    Carnival is started on last Thursday and continuing today(Sunday ) as well. MUSICAL Stage is located just behind my flat. Noise pollution. Can’t sleep and stay inside the house. Tomorrow is working day.
    School’s playground is used for Carnival.
    What can I do?

  84. cimoggsrilanka Says:

    Please Complain to the police. The law says you cant have loudspeakers after 10 pm.

    CIMOGG

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