CHURCH OF GOD (FULL GOSPEL) IN INDIA [PETITIONER] VK.K.R. MAJESTIC COLONY WELFARE ASSOCIATION AND OTHERS [RESPONDENTS] AIR 2000 SC 2773 (BENCH: M.B.SHAH J, S.PHUKAN J)
FACTS• Church of God (Full gospel) in India (hereinafter referred as Church) was a prayer hall for the Pentecostal Christians (a sect of Christians).• It recited prayers using drums, guitars and other such musical instruments.• It also used loudspeakers for the recital of their prayers.
FACTS (CONTD.)• The church was located in K.K.R.Nagar, Madhavram High Road, Chennai.• This locality had a welfare association called K.K.R.Majestic Colony Welfare Association (hereinafter referred as Welfare Association).• This welfare association made a complaint to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board stating that the church was causing noise pollution and was thereby creating nuisance for the residents.
FACTS (CONTD.)• A complaint was also made to the Superintendent of Police along with the Inspector of Police.• Based on the complaint The Joint Chief Environmental Engineer of the board conducted a test of the ambient noise levels in the area.• The test revealed that the noise pollution was due to the vehicular movement on Madhavram High Road.
FACTS (CONTD.)• The welfare association then filed a criminal petition in the High Court, seeking an order to direct the Superintendent of Police and the Inspector of Police to take action in this regard.• The Court took into consideration various other scientific reports and one of its earlier decisions (Appa Rao,M.S. v Govt. of TN & anr.) wherein it laid down certain guidelines for controlling noise pollution. (These guidelines included control of the use of loudspeakers etc.)
FACTS (CONTD.)• The High Court held that the welfare association was justified in its demands. The report of the Jt. Chief Environmental Engineer suggested nothing more than the fact the Church was not solely responsible for the noise pollution, but that it added to the existent nuisance of vehicular noise pollution.• The Court directed the SP as well as the Inspector to take necessary steps to cut down on noise pollution by taking action against vehicles that caused noise and to keep the speakers of the Church at a lower level.
FACTS (CONTD.)• Impugned by this order the Church moved to the Supreme Court (SLP u/Art.136 of the Constitution)
PARTIES TO THE SUIT• APPELLANT: Church• REPONDENTS: Welfare Association, Jt. Chief Env. Engineer, Superintendent of Police, Inspector of Police
ISSUES1. Whether the right to profess and practice Christianity which is protected under Art. 25 and Art.26 of the Constitution is violated by the orders of the HC?2. Whether the judgment relied upon by the HC (i.e. Appa Rao’s case) empowered the concerned authorities to interfere in religious practices?
COURTS RESPONSE IN ISSUE 1• The Court felt that the contention with respect to the rights under Art.25 and 26 need not be dealt in detail. It stated that “…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 …”• It further substantiated that enjoyment of no right is absolute. Enjoyment of ones rights must be consistent with the enjoyment of rights by others.
COURTS RESPONSE IN ISSUE 2• The court accepted the view that there was no need to add religious colour to the issue at hand. Yes, the judgment relied upon by the HC (Appa Rao’s case) empowered the concerned authorities to take action based on the guidelines laid down.• The guidelines laid down in Appa Rao’s case was itself based on Madras City Police Act, 1888, Madras Towns Nuisance Act, 1889, 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
RELEVANCE OF JUDGMENTIt answers a few very important questions:• 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?
“.. 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 aswell as children up to 6 years of age are considered to be very sensible to noise. Their rights are also required to be honoured.”