NGT order may 'silence' weddings in western India

Pune (Maharashtra): The National Green Tribunal has put severe restrictions on live bands or DJ music, dancing and other noisy celebrations at marriages, violation of which could invite police action, an activist said on Saturday.

The NGT West Zone bench comprising Justice Vikas R. Kingaonkar, Judicial Member and Dr. Ajay Deshpande, Expert Member, said in a landmark order that unnecessary activities like dancing by groups could attract action by police under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for creating public nuisance.

The NGT order of April 9, came on an environmental interest litigation (EIL) filed by Sujal Sahakari Griharachana Sanstha Chairman Ujwala V. Ghanekar on behalf of residents of D.P. Road near Mhatre Bridge, Pune, through activist-lawyer Asim Sarode.

Sarode pleaded before the NGT that such noise pollution is not confined to Pune, but is all over Maharashtra and submitted a bunch of affidavits from various parts of the state highlighting the issue.

These included affidavits by lawyers Roshni Wanode of Yavatmal, Hema Katkar of Kolhapur, Samir Kulkarni of Sindhudurg, Vijay Shelke of Buldhana, Santosh Sangokar of Jalgaon and Smita Singalkar of Nagpur.

They pointed to the serious pollution problems posed by "noisy marriage halls and lawns", creating noise pollution due to loud Dolby music systems installed for different wedding functions, music band players deployed during marriage processions and traffic jams leading to constant honking of vehicle horns, among other things.

The bench -- which has jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and Union Territories of Daman & Diu -- also clarified that use of DJs, crowds, dancing around the marriage venue cannot be treated as "part of any religious function", as claimed by most event organizers.

"Accepting my plea, the NGT has allowed us to implead the Maharashtra Urban Development Department, Director-General of Police and Environment Department Secretary as parties," Sarode told IANS.

These authorities shall be responsible to control the menace of noise pollution and asked to submit records of various permissions granted to marriage halls, open lawns for conducting weddings, receptions, etc.

"There shall be no opposition to following tenets of any religion by anyone, as per his wish and the religion in which he believes, but that should not cause nuisance to others, nor shall it be an encroachment over the field of law," the NGT bench ruled.

"Obviously, it cannot be said that taking a procession up to the temple site is part and parcel of any religious activity and therefore, use of DJ sets, excessive sound created by other equipments and obstructions in the traffic by the members of the (wedding) procession, would be permissible... This kind of interpretation, in our opinion, would defeat the very purpose of law," Justice Kingaonkar and Member Deshpande said.

The NGT expressed its displeasure mentioning that "it has become difficult to segregate feelings of people who do not understand what religion is and all subsequent unnecessary additions that are made by the society, which are unrelated to the religion".

Referring to the specific plea made by the Pune residents, the NGT ruled that only small groups of around 20-25 people of any marriage party shall be allowed to go in procession to the temple at Mhatre Bridge to Rajaram Bridge, without playing any music and with specific prior information to the traffic police to avoid traffic jams.

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