Use of low-powered amplification distributed sound system is the answer to the demand for grounds at locations where people are present or can reach conveniently and to keep the noise level within limits. It would be most effective if the court directs the MoEF to evolve the guidelines for its use
The Indian Education Society (IES) was denied permission to hold a function on its ground at its school—Raja Shivaji Vidya Sankul (King George School), Dadar East by the Police as the area was in the “silence zone”. IES moved the court and at the 21 March 2012, the Bombay High Court hearing (case No. WPL/353/2012) the court had directed the party concerned to use low-powered amplification distributed sound system instead. The case came up for hearing again on Friday 13 April 2012. The court has clarified that even the low-powered amplification distributed sound system cannot be used in the silence zone without the court’s permission.
It is reported that IES counsel Raju Subramanian informed the court that the order of 21 March 2012 hearing was in violation of Rule 6 of the Noise Rule (Control & Regulation) 2000 and is contrary to earlier judgments by the high court and confirmed by the Supreme Court, prohibiting the use of loudspeakers in a silence zone.
The report further added that he told the court that educational institutions, hospitals and religious places (and courts of hearing) do not fall in the silence zone as the zone begins 100 meters from its boundaries. Mr Subramanian felt that the court’s order may be grossly misused and should be modified to protect the citizens.
In response to this, the court is reported to have stated that the use of loud speakers, including the low-powered amplification distributed sound system cannot be used. It also stated that educational institutions schools may use loudspeakers for their normal activities like assembly and sports, for which they need not take permission.
It is wrong on part of IES counsel to state that the silence zone begins from boundary of school premises and extends to 100 meters from there. The fact is that the boundary of a silence zone is so defined and any area falling within is silence zone or any extent as defined by the authority beyond the 100 meter distance. A silence zone is clearly defined as area comprising not less than 100 meters around educational institutions, hospitals, religious places and courts or any other area which is declared as such by the competent authority.
While allowing use of loudspeakers at the function celebrating the 125 year completion of the Bombay High Court building, and also in use of loudspeakers at religious places, the court gave a ruling that use of loud speakers for these four types of premises is permitted for their normal activities. For activities not normal to these premises, the Noise Rule will apply. This ruling was made much prior to the latest amendment of the 11 January 2010. This latest amended Noise Rule tries to clarify ambiguity by restricting noise levels not just to the limits specified for respective zones but to a level beyond the prevailing ambient noise levels at these locations.
Since the high court did use loudspeakers at very low amplification on its open lawns, which is within 100 meters of University of Mumbai premises, it was still in violation of the Noise Rule. However, despite traffic having been diverted that day and the ambient noise level was close to the permissible day time limit, use of loudspeaker at the high court function did not cause any increase in the noise level. It is this principle that needs to be followed—noise levels in the silence zone outside the premises which is the reason of the surrounding area getting classified as a silence zone should be within the limit so specified in the latest amendment rule 5(4) & 5(5).
In my opinion, the court needs to give greater weightage to Rule 5(4) and 5(5) and 7(1) while interpreting Rule 6. This would mean use of low-powered amplification loudspeakers could be used, but permission must be obtained from the competent authority.
The competent authority must have guidelines which the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) could evolve after experimentation. Any party desirous of using loud speakers within silence zone could then use it so long as the levels do not violate Rule 5(4) & 5(5). While granting permission, the competent authority must get design of the low-powered amplification distributed sound system for approval and on satisfaction that there is no scope for violation, grant permission.
For this purpose, it would be most effective if the court directs the MoEF to evolve the guidelines. It should also ask the MoEF to modify Rule 6 such that those observing Rule 5(4) and 5(5) shall not be prosecuted for violation of Rule 6(i) and 6(v).
If these are followed, even political meetings in places such as playgrounds can be held. Care has to be taken that the playgrounds essentially are used for the said purpose in a year discounting for the monsoon and only limited days could the playground be used for political and cultural events. Use of low-powered amplification distributed sound system is the answer to the demand for grounds at locations where people are present or can reach conveniently and to keep the noise level within permissible limits.
There is one more point that needs commenting on. The court has asked MoEF to clarify its stand on impracticability of minimum standards of noise levels in residential areas and silence zones. The MoEF has been given time till 22 June 2012 to respond.
I hope the court, as well as the MoEF, gives adequate importance to restfulness of sleep, which one gets when noise levels fall to lower levels than the permissible ambient noise levels. This aspect has been very well explained in the Supreme Court judgment of 18 July 2005. Higher levels of noise lead to (a) not getting restful sleep and (b) increase in stress levels and adverse health implications. At first one may feel that if the minimum levels are not achievable why not raise it. That would defeat the very purpose of Noise Rules. What needs to be strived for is eliminating the causes of noise without unnecessarily curtailing human activities. Use of low-powered amplification distributed sound systems, reducing use of personal motorized transport by adopting public transport such as BRTS and non-motorized vehicles like bicycles, cycle-rickshaws, walking, etc, which are not only carbon neutral but also do not make the noise present combinations of transportations modes do.
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected])
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PAN card data has become essential for certain transactions, which makes PAN card identity theft more likely than ever
Waving a PAN (Permanent Account Number) card as a form of identity, when such a document is required with a photograph, has become second nature to many of us. Keeping a laminated copy as a spare, and placing the original in safe-keeping, is the strategy adopted by many. But now, with more and more transactions requiring a copy of a PAN card, or at the very least the number, it appears that the role of this essential piece of plastic, and its consequences, are rapidly changing, in a way and manner not anticipated by the authorities.
Tipped off by a message in an amateur railfans group (IRFCA) and prodded by a couple of anecdotal experiences, this is what we discovered about the widespread misuse of PAN card data. If you are using it to book Tatkal tickets, then you have to provide the number. This number then reflects on the booking chart, which is displayed openly on the carriage, at the departure station and elsewhere.
In some cities and states, hotels demand copies of PAN cards. Similarly, if running up huge bills at restaurants, and paying in cash—you can be asked for a PAN card. Then at jewellers, second-hand car dealers, property brokers, landlords, tenants, and many more entities, they all want a copy of your PAN card. Travel agents and visa facilitation centres are also not averse to asking for this detail.
All this is fine in normal situations. But if you have ever seen determined looking young men taking down details of name, age, gender and origin/destination, along with the PAN card number, from railway reservation charts, know that they are paid anything between Rs5 and Rs10 per detail collected. And if you have ever received strange phone calls or telegrams/emails from weird people after applying for a visa, then it worries you even more. Very often they appear to have copies of all the documents you placed with the visa centres.
This PAN card number then becomes a tool for benami transactions in a variety of hands. And it appears that this problem is growing very rapidly. Including, it seems, with credit cards issued, new cars purchased, or similar.
What happens, then, if you are a victim of PAN card identity theft, and data emerges which shows you as having transacted a vast amount of money somewhere? Which may also match with your actual travel?
# From the trader’s point of view, a penalty of Rs10,000 per wrong PAN card information provided can be levied and so it becomes incumbent on the trader to try to ensure that correct data is collected and provided, preferably with an additional identity proof.
# From the tax-paying PAN card holder’s point of view, if despite checking the Form 26AS online some benami transactions take place, and you do not spot it till it is too late, then the Income Tax department will ask the PAN card holder to prove that he did not carry out the transaction. The Income Tax department can also ask the PAN card holder to explain the source of the funds used. Resolution can take years.
# From the non-tax-paying PAN card holder’s point of view, there may not even be the option of checking Form 26AS online, and the first he will come to know is when he receives a notice from the Income Tax department. Again, the common man suffers—and God help you if somebody takes a dislike towards you.
Obviously, the quoting of a PAN card for cash transactions is not a fool-proof method and needs to be fine-tuned some more. That is for the finance ministry to consider and implement and one method would be to insist that additional steps like signed photocopy of PAN card, signed photocopy of additional identity document and possibly video/photo record of the transaction be retained by traders/customers taking part in high-value cash transactions.
On your part, try not to use the PAN card as an identity document or for other casual transactions, and have control over photocopies given out.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)