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Supreme Court of India
Church Of God (Full Gospel) In … vs K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare … on 30 August, 2000
Author: Shah
Bench: M B Shah, J., S.N. Phukan, J.



DATE OF JUDGMENT:	30/08/2000

M B Shah, J. & S.N. Phukan, J.


Shah, J.

Leave granted.

The questions involved in this appeal are that in a
country having multiple religions and numerous communities
or sects, whether a particular community or sect of that
community can claim right to add to noise pollution on the
ground of religion? Whether beating of drums or reciting of
prayers by use of microphones and loudspeakers so as to
disturb the peace or tranquility of neighbourhood should be
permitted? Undisputedly no religion prescribes that prayers
should be performed by disturbing the peace of others nor
does it preach that they should be through voice-amplifiers
or beating of drums. In our view, in a civilized society in
the name of religion, activities which disturb old or infirm
persons, students or children having their sleep in the
early hours or during day-time or other persons carrying on
other activities cannot be permitted. It should not be
forgotten that young babies in the neighbourhood are also
entitled to enjoy their natural right of sleeping in a
peaceful atmosphere. A student preparing for his
examination is entitled to concentrate on his studies
without their being any unnecessary disturbance by the
neighbours. Similarly, old and infirm are entitled to enjoy
reasonable quietness during their leisure hours without
there being any nuisance of noise pollution. Aged, sick,
people afflicted with psychic disturbances as well as
children up to 6 years of age are considered to be very
sensible to noise. Their rights are also required to be

Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, rules for
noise pollution level are framed which prescribe permissible
limits of noise in residential, commercial, industrial areas
or silence zone. The question is whether the appellant can
be permitted to violate the said provisions and add to the
noise pollution? In our view, to claim such a right itself
would be unjustifiable. In these days, the problem of noise
pollution has become more serious with the increasing trend
towards industrialization, urbanization and modernization
and is having many evil effects including danger to the
health. It may cause interruption of sleep, affect
communication, loss of efficiency, hearing loss or deafness,
high blood pressure, depression, irritability, fatigue,
gastro-intestinal problems, allergy, distraction, mental
stress and annoyance etc. This also affects animals alike.
The extent of damage depends upon the duration and the
intensity of noise. Sometimes it leads to serious law and
order problem. Further, in an organized society, rights are
related with duties towards others including neighbours.

Keeping this background in mind, we would narrate the
facts in brief for resolving the controversy involved in the
present case. This appeal by special leave is filed against
the judgment and order dated 19.4.1999 passed by the High
Court of Judicature at Madras in Criminal O.P. No. 61 of
1998. The appellant is the Church of God (Full Gospel)
(Church for short) located at K.K.R. Nagar, Madhavaram
High Road, Chennai. It has a prayer hall for the
Pentecostal Christians and is provided with musical
instruments such as drum set, triple gango, guitar etc.
Respondent No.1-KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association
(Welfare Association for short) made a complaint on
15.5.1996 to the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board
(hereinafter referred to as the Board) stating therein
that prayers in the Church were recited by using
loudspeakers, drums and other sound producing instruments
which caused noise pollution thereby disturbing and causing
nuisance to the normal day life of the residents of the said
colony. Complaints were also made to the Superintendent of
Police and the Inspector of Police–respondents Nos 5 and 6
respectively. The Joint Chief Environmental Engineer of the
Boardrespondent No.4 herein on 23.5.1996 addressed a letter
to respondent No.5, the Superintendent of Police, Chengai
MGR District (East), Chennai, to take action on the
complaint. On 12.6.1996, respondent No.4 again addressed a
letter to respondent No.5 enclosing therewith the analysis
report of the Ambient noise level survey conducted in the
vicinity of the appellants church hall which disclosed that
noise pollution was due to plying of vehicles on the
Madhavaram High Road. Respondent No.1 gave representations
to various officials in this regard. Thereafter respondent
No.1Welfare Association filed Criminal O.P. No.61 of 1998
before the High Court of Madras for a direction to
respondent Nos. 5 and 6 to take action on the basis of the
letter issued by respondent No.4. In the High Court, it was
contended by learned counsel for the Church that the
petition was filed with an oblique motive in order to
prevent a religious minority institution from pursuing its
religious activities and the Court cannot issue any
direction to prevent the Church from practicing its
religious beliefs. It was also submitted that the noise
pollution was due to plying of vehicles and not due to use
of loudspeakers etc.

The learned Judge referred to the decision of the High
Court in Appa Rao, M.S. v. Government of Tamil Nadu &
(1995-1 L.W. (Vol.115) 319) where certain
guidelines have been laid down for controlling the noise
pollution. In Appa Raos case, the Division Bench of the
Madras High Court after considering the contentions raised
by the parties and decisions cited therein and also to the
provisions of Section 41 and 71(a) of the Madras City Police
Act, 1888 and Section 10 of the Madras Town Nuisance Act,
1989 has issued directions to the Government for controlling
the noise pollution and for the use of amplifiers and
loudspeakers. In the said case, the Court has observed that
the grievances of the petitioners, who have complained with
regard to the noise pollution were fully justified and the
authorities concerned were turning or made to turn by the
higher powers a Nelsons eye to the violation of rules and
regulations in these matters. The Court also considered
copy of an article which appeared in the August, 1982 Issue
of Science Today and a copy of the ICMR Bulletin of July,
1979 containing a Study on Noise Pollution in South India
wherein it is pointed out that noise pollution will lead to
serious nervous disorders, emotional tension leading to high
blood-pressure, cardiovascular diseases, increase in
cholesterol level resulting in heart attacks and strokes and
even damage to foetus.

The learned Single Judge also referred to other
decisions and directed respondent Nos.5 and 6 to follow the
guidelines issued in Appa Raos case (Supra) and to take
necessary steps to bring down the noise level to the
permitted extent by taking action against the vehicles which
make noise and also by making the Church to keep their
speakers at a lower level. He further held that the Survey
report submitted by the Board would go to show that the
Church was not the sole contributor of the noise and it
appeared that the interference of noise was also due to
plying of vehicles. The learned Judge pointed out that
there was nothing of malice and malicious wish to cause any
hindrance to the free practice of religious faith of the
Church and if the noise created by the Church exceeds the
permissible decibels then it has to be abated. Aggrieved by
the said order, this appeal is filed by the Church.

Mr. G. Krishnan, learned senior counsel appearing on
behalf of appellant contended that the High Court has failed
to note that the two survey reports of the Pollution Control
Board clearly attributed the noise pollution in the area in
question to the vehicular traffic and not to any of the
activities of the appellant-Church and, therefore, direction
issued in respect of controlling the noise ought not to have
been extended in respect of the appellant-Church; that the
High Court has overlooked that the right to profess and
practice Christianity is protected under Articles 25 and 26
of the Constitution of India which cannot be dislodged by
directing the authorities to have a check on the
appellant-Church; and that the judgment relied upon by the
High Court in Appa Raos case (Supra) did not empower the
authorities to interfere with the religious practices of any

The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
respondents contended that the appellant-Church has
deliberately tried to give religious colour to this cause of
action as respondent no.1 – Welfare Association is
consisting of members belonging to all religions as found by
the High Court. It is contended that even if the contention
of the appellant-Churchthat the noise created by it is
within the prescribed limitis taken as it is, the order
passed by the High Court will not in any way prejudice the
right of religious practice of appellant because the order
of the High Court is only with regard to reducing the noise
pollution in that area. It is further contended that the
High Court can pass orders to protect and preserve a very
fundamental right of citizen under Article 19(1)(a) of the
Constitution of India. He relied upon the judgment of
Calcutta High Court in Om Birangana Religious Society v.
The State and others [CWN 1995-96 (Vol.100) 617] wherein the
Court dealt with a similar matter. The questions posed by
the Court for consideration werewhether the public are
captive audience or listener when permission is given for
using loud-speakers in public and the person who is
otherwise unwilling to bear the sound and/or the music or
the communication made by the loud-speakers, but he is
compelled to tolerate all these things against his will and
health? Does it concern simply a law and order situation?
Does it not generate sound pollution? Does it not affect
the other known rights of a citizen? Even if a citizen is
ill and even if such a sound may create adverse effect on
his physical and mental condition, yet he is made a captive
audience to listen. The High Court held that:

It cannot be said that the religious teachers or the
spiritual leaders who had laid down these tenets, had any
way desired the use of microphones as a means of performance
of religion. Undoubtedly, one can practice, profess and
propagate religion, as guaranteed under Article 25(1) of the
Constitution but that is not an absolute right. The
provision of Article 25 is subject to the provisions of
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. On true and proper
construction of the provision of Article 25(1), read with
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, it cannot be said that
a citizen should be coerced to hear any thing which he does
not like or which he does not require.

Thereafter, the High Court laid down certain guidelines
for the Pollution Control Board for grant of permission to
use loudspeakers and to maintain noise level in West Bengal.

In our view, the contentions raised by the learned
counsel for the appellant deserves to be rejected because
the direction given by the learned Judge to the authorities
is only to follow the guidelines laid down in Appa Raos
case decided by the Division Bench of the same High Court on
the basis of the Madras City Police Act, 1888 and the Madras
Towns Nuisance Act, 1889. It is also in conformity with the
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 framed
by the Central Government under the provisions of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 read with rule 5 of the
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. Rule 3 of the Noise
Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 provides for
ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for
different areas/zones as specified in the Schedule annexed
to the rule which is as under:-

Ambient	      Air Quality Standards in respec  t of Noise
Area Code	      Category of Area/		  Limits in dB(A)
Leq.   Night Time				  Zone	Day Time@@


(A) Industrial Area 75 70
(B) Commercial Area 65 55
(C) Residential Area 55 45
(D) Silence Zone 50 40


(1) Day time shall mean from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm.

(2) Night time shall mean from 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.

(3) Silence zone is defined as an area comprising not
less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational
institutions and courts. The silence zones are zones which
are declared as such by the competent authority. (4) Mixed
categories of areas may be declared as one of the four
above-mentioned categories by the competent authority.

Other relevant rules for controlling noise pollution are: –

4. Responsibility as to enforcement of noise pollution
control measures.

(1) The noise levels in any area/zone shall not exceed
the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise as
specified in the Schedule.

(2) The authority shall be responsible for the
enforcement of noise pollution control measures and the due
compliance of the ambient air quality standards in respect
of noise.

5. Restrictions on the use of loudspeakers/public
address system.

(1) A loud speaker or a public address system shall not
be used except after obtaining written permission from the

(2) A loud speaker or a public address system shall not
be used at night (between 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. except
in closed premises for communication within, e.g.
auditoria, conference rooms, community halls and banquet

6. Consequences of any violation in silence zone/area.

Whoever, in any place covered under the silence
zone/area commits any of the following offence, he shall be
liable for penalty under the provisions of the Act:-

(i) whoever, plays any music or uses any sound amplifiers,

(ii) whoever, beats a drum or tom-tom or blows a horn
either musical or pressure, or trumpet or beats or sounds
any instrument, or

(iii) whoever, exhibits any mimetic, musical or other performances
of a nature to attract crowds.

7. Complaints to be made to the authority.

(1) A person may, if the noise level exceeds the
ambient noise standards by 10 dB(A) or more given in the
corresponding columns against any area/zone, make a
complaint to the authority.

(2) The authority shall act on the complaint and take
action against the violator in accordance with the
provisions of these rules and any other law in force.

8. Power to prohibit etc. continuance of music sound or noise.

(1) If the authority is satisfied from the report of an
officer incharge of a police station or other information
received by him that it is necessary to do so in order to
prevent annoyance, disturbance, discomfort or injury or risk
of annoyance, disturbance, discomfort or injury to the
public or to any person who dwell or occupy property on the
vicinity, he may, by a written order issue such directions
as he may consider necessary to any person for preventing,
prohibiting, controlling or regulating:-

(a) the incidence or continuance in or upon any
premises of-

(i) any vocal or instrumental music,

(ii) sounds caused by playing, beating, clashing,
blowing or use in any manner whatsoever of any instrument
including loudspeakers, public address systems, appliance or
apparatus or contrivance which is capable of producing or
re-producing sound, or

(b) the carrying or in or upon, any premises of any
trade, avocation or operation or process resulting in or
attended with noise.

(2) The authority empowered under sub-rule (1) may,
either on its own motion, or on the application of any
person aggrieved by an order made under sub-rule (1), either
rescind, modify or alter any such order:

Provided that before any such application is disposed
of, the said authority shall afford to the applicant an
opportunity of appearing before it either in person or by a
person representing him and showing cause against the order
and shall, if it rejects any such application either wholly
or in part, record its reasons for such rejection.

Aforesaid rules are unambiguous, clear and speak for
themselves. Considering the same, it cannot be said that
the directions issued by the High Court are in any manner
illegal or erroneous.

In the present case, the contention with regard to the
rights under Article 25 or Article 26 of the Constitution
which are subject to public order, morality and health are
not required to be dealt with in detail mainly because as
stated earlier no religion prescribes or preaches that
prayers are required to be performed through voice
amplifiers or by beating of drums. In any case, if there is
such practice, it should not adversely affect the rights of
others including that of being not disturbed in their
activities. We would only refer to some observations made
by the Constitution Bench of this Court qua rights under
Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution in Acharya
Maharajshri Narendra Prasadji Anand Prasadji Maharaj and
Others v. The State of Gujarat & Others [(1975) 1 SCC 11].
After considering the various contentions, the Court
observed that no rights in an organized society can be
absolute. Enjoyment of ones rights must be consistent with
the enjoyment of rights also by others. Where in a free
play of social forces it is not possible to bring about a
voluntary harmony, the State has to step in to set right the
imbalance between competing interests. The Court also
observed that a particular fundamental right cannot exist
in isolation in a water-tight compartment. One Fundamental
Right of a person may have to co-exist in harmony with the
exercise of another Fundamental Right by others also with
reasonable and valid exercise of power by the State in the
light of the Directive Principles in the interests of social
welfare as a whole. Further, it is to be stated that
because of urbanization or industrialization the noise
pollution may in some area of a city/town might be exceeding
permissible limits prescribed under the rules, but that
would not be a ground for permitting others to increase the
same by beating of drums or by use of voice amplifiers,
loudspeakers or by such other musical instruments and,
therefore, rules prescribing reasonable restrictions
including the rules for the use of loudspeakers and voice
amplifiers framed under the Madras Town Nuisance Act, 1889
and also the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules,
2000 are required to be enforced . We would mention that
even though the Rules are unambiguous, there is lack of
awareness among the citizens as well as the Implementation
Authorities about the Rules or its duty to implement the
same. Noise polluting activities which are rampant and yet
for one reason or the other, the aforesaid Rules or the
rules framed under various State Police Acts are not
enforced. Hence, the High Court has rightly directed
implementation of the same. In the result, the appeal is

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