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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2701

SC cries halt to loudspeaker 'terrorism'

By Janaka Perera

Colombo, 10 November, (Asiantribune.com): Sri Lanka 's Supreme Court in a groundbreaking judgment delivered on Friday (Nov. 9) banned the use of loudspeakers and amplifiers after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m. bringing this country closer to modern standards in the developed world.

A three judge-bench led by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva made the interim order on a petition filed by the trustees of a mosque in Weligama alleging breach of fundamental rights because of the refusal of a senior Muslim police officer to extend the times for call to prayer from three minutes to seven minutes. The refusal followed numerous complaints from residents in the area.

The Supreme Court sought the advice of the Central Environment Authority in respect to he availability of rules to regulate community noise.

Henceforth no police permits will be issued for the use of loudspeakers or other sound systems that are amplified by electronic equipment. The order states that permission for their use between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. has to be sought from the nearest magistrate's court after notifying the affected parties. The court directed that those who violate this law would be punished under the penal code and ordered that it would be responsibility of the police to prevent such violations. The Inspector General of Police has been ordered to forward a report to the courts on December 12 on the proper enforcement of these regulations

There were two other intervenient litigants namely the Environmental Foundation Limited and an aggrieved individual. Both of the intervenient parties submitted substantial grounds calling for the restriction of the use of loudspeakers.

The bench was very much persuaded by these submissions particularly the citation of authorities from India. Indian case law dealing with sound pollution had a strong persuasive influence on the direction of the case and the subsequent judgment.

The Calcutta High Court of West Bengal had considered whether the public becomes a captive audience when permission is given for the use of loudspeakers in public or whether a person who is otherwise unwilling to bear the sound and / or music emanating from a loudspeaker is compelled to tolerate it against his will and health.

The Supreme Court case here generated substantial public interest throughout the country as reflected in the letters to the editors of newspapers of all three languages. And none of them were supportive of the indiscriminate use of loudspeakers.

The proceedings clearly established that while religious freedom is a fundamental right the freedom to use loudspeakers is not.

The judgment has been widely welcomed as a very positive development since neither of the two major political parties dared to tread this area for fear of pressure from religious groups whose support they seek at every election.

- Asian Tribune -

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