The Uttarakhand High Court in the case of Mahendra Singh v. State of Uttarakhand and Others, WP (PIL) No. 112 of 2015 has modified its 2018 judgment pertaining to the maximum noise level for loudspeakers. The plea for this modification was allowed by Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia by stating that ‘the sanctity to the finality of judicial orders should never deter a Court in correcting its plain errors’.
Divergent views were given on the 2018 judgment pronounced by Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Lok Pal Singh. The 2018 decision had directed the State to ensure that no person including religious bodies in Temples, Mosques, and Gurudwaras shall use loudspeakers or public address systems without the permission of the authority even during the day time. Further, an undertaking has to be obtained that the noise level shall not exceed more than 5 dB(A) peripheral noise level.
The modified rule states that ‘the noise level shall not exceed by more than 5dB(A) peripheral noise level above the ambient noise standards specified for the area in which it is used at the boundaries of the private place’.
Stating the reasons for this modification, the Court stated that five decibel sound level is at par with silence. Further, the previous judgment was considered to be simply an inadvertent error and that the court never intended to say that the noise level shall not exceed by 5 dB (A). The main intention was that the noise level shall not exceed by more than 5 dB (A) above the ambient noise standards of that area. This has also been mentioned under the Rules of Central government that is the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. The Schedule of the Rule prescribes that during day time the maximum noise level must be only 55 dB (A) and during the night, the noise level must be only 45 dB (A). Further, it is permissible to increase this level by 5 dB (A). Hence, the main intention of the Division Bench in the 2018 judgment was that the noise level should not be more than 5 dB (A) of the prescribed noise level.
It was also observed that the 2018 decision was primarily based on a technicality and a scope for review was agreed by Justice Singh himself. Further, Justice Dhulia has referred to the famous quote by Lord Atkin that ‘finality is a good thing, but justice is better’.