Amid the simmering tensions in Maharashtra over the use of loudspeakers in places of worship, the Uttar Pradesh government has said that it removed close to 11,000 unauthorised loudspeakers while volume of other 35,000 was set to permissible limits across the state following directions by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to implement guidelines laid down by courts on the issue.
Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said that loudspeakers are being removed from all religious places without any discrimination. Under this exercise, a total of 10,923 loudspeakers were removed and volume of 35,221 loudspeakers was set within permissible limits till Wednesday evening, Kumar said.
“There is an existing government order of 2018, and there are set rules for sound decibel limits and court directions. Districts have been directed to ensure the implementation of the same with firmness now. They have been asked to submit reports by April 30 about the implementation,” UP Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi told The Indian Express.
Explaining further about the action, Prashant Kumar said, “The loudspeakers which are being removed are unauthorised.”
Those loudspeakers which have been placed without taking due permission from the district administration or the ones which are placed in excess of the permitted numbers are categorised as unauthorised, he added.
He said orders of the high court regarding loudspeakers are also being considered during the exercise.”
The action followed after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, during a review meeting on law and order with senior officials here last week, said people have the freedom to perform their religious practices according to their faith.
“Though microphones can be used, it should be ensured that the sound does not come out of any premises. People should not face any problem,” he had said.
The home department has also sought a compliance report from the districts over the removal of loudspeakers at religious places by April 30.
According to the information provided by the police department on Wednesday, maximum 2,395 loudspeakers were removed in districts of the Lucknow zone, followed by Gorakhpur (1,788), Varanasi (1,366) and Meerut (1204) zones. In terms of minimising the volume of loudspeakers, the Lucknow zone tops the list with action being taken against 7,397 loudspeakers, followed by Bareilly (6,257) and Meerut (5,976).
The exercise was conducted in the city by a joint team comprising officials of the Lucknow Municipal Corporation and the police.
“The exercise to remove loudspeakers was started on Tuesday and is currently underway. We are conducting the exercise in tandem with members of peace committees and religious heads of different religions. So far, we have not faced any opposition while conducting the drive,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Somen Barma said.
In October 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional validity of a provision introduced by the Centre in 2002 in the noise pollution rules of 2000. This provision allowed states to conditionally permit the use of loudspeakers or public address systems between 10 pm to midnight “on or during any cultural or religious festive occasion of a limited duration not exceeding 15 days in all during a calendar year”.
In all other cases, the apex court said, “no one shall beat a drum or tom-tom or blow a trumpet or beat or sound any instrument or use any sound amplifier at night (between 10 pm and 6 am) except in public emergencies”.
Several High Courts, including the Lucknow High Court, have also laid down guidelines on the use of loudspeakers.
On April 19, the Bombay High Court said it will hear on June 14 a plea filed in 2018, seeking initiation of contempt proceedings for alleged non-compliance of directions issued against “illegal” installation of loudspeakers at religious places.
The court hearing came amid escalating tensions in Maharashtra over an ultimatum issued by MNS chief Raj Thackeray who warned of “repercussions” if loudspeakers are not removed from mosques by May 3 after the Ramzan period ends.