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Above: Youngsters driving noisy bikes in Chandigarh has become a menace for its residents (Representational image)/Photo: UNI

Fed up with increasing noise levels due to bikes and marriage parties, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has formed a committee of six leading lawyers to come out with suggestions to curb the menace

By Vipin Pubby in Chandigarh

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, which has jurisdiction over the two states and the Union Territory (UT) of Chandigarh, has been pro-active in dealing with civic issues pertaining to Chandigarh. This UT does not have a legislative assembly and depends on funds and directions from the central government.

The High Court has been taking up issues like traffic management, encroachment on public land, deposit of silt in the local Sukhna Lake, delay in inaugurating the new international airport, lack of adequate international flights and preservation of Chandigarh’s architectural plan. The latest issue on its plate is noise pollution caused by motorcycles without silencers, use of loudspeakers and jagratas and nagar kirtans caused by marriage parties and other social functions.

“If I can hear high decibel sounds from motorcycles from my house, what must be the plight of the rest of the city,” bemoaned Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Krishna Murari during the hearing of a public interest litigation. The official residence of the chief justice is located in a posh area of the city which has residences of the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana, senior ministers, officers and leading lawyers. In the past, too, some judges had complained of youth driving high-end motorcycles after removing their silencers.

The city is home to the super rich, including big landlords and rich industrialists from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In such an environment, there is no dearth of youngsters who like to flaunt their parents’ wealth or who act like superheroes driving convertibles and expensive bikes without silencers. As the police and heavy traffic during the daytime prevents them from driving at high speeds, they do so during the night after removing the silencers for a thrilling experience.

That’s where judges, senior politicians, bureaucrats and leading lawyers come into the picture. Most of them live in sectors adjoining these roads. The latest remarks of judges are not the first to be made. Their predecessors too have suffered and pulled up the Chandigarh traffic police. It had responded by setting up nakas and “challaning” many youngsters for the noise pollution. The police had even provided free silencers to be fitted on such bikes. It had gone to the extent of warning motorcycle repair shops against removing silencers from motorcycles.

The Union Territory’s Senior Superintendent of Police (Traffic), Shashank Anand, who has earned accolades for his pro-active role in bringing discipline on the roads, said that senior officers have been deputed to tell shopkeepers who sell vehicle spare parts and motor mechanics not to modify bikes for producing a thumping sound while driving. His department has also written to the SSPs of neighbouring towns—Mohali, Panchkula and Ropar—to keep a check on the mechanics located there as in most cases, bikes “challaned” in Chandigarh for sound pollution were found to have been modified in these towns. Its teams had also been meeting and sensitising mechanics in Chandigarh about modification of bikes and its consequences. “If mechanics still modify bikes, stern action will be taken against them too,” he said. There was a provision for a penalty of Rs 5,000 and imprisonment up to six years under the Punjab Pollution Control Board rules, applicable in Chandigarh, for aiding or abetting noise pollution, he added.

Prodded by the High Court, the traffic police had launched a special drive at night against these bikes. So far, the traffic police has “challaned” over 700 bikers for noise pollution. It has impounded 71 motorcycles for causing noise pollution, with half of them having modified cylinders. They were released only after these cylinders were removed and standard silencers were restored.

The SSP said that the traffic police has recommended tripling the fee for challans issued for noise pollution from the current Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 and from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for subsequent offences. In order to widen its net, it has also requested residents to share information or videos of such violators on the Facebook page and WhatsApp number of the traffic police.

However, the burgeoning number of “fun-loving” and spoilt youth who come up with innovative ideas to test their expensive and high-end motorcycles is getting out of hand. Fed up with the increasing number of such incidents which has made life a nightmare for the residents of the affected sectors, the High Court has now formed a committee of six leading lawyers, headed by senior advocate Manmohan Sarin, to come out with suggestions to curb the nuisance.

The committee also includes two other senior lawyers, Reeta Kohli and Akshay Bhan, besides Punjab law officer Sheerish Gupta, Haryana law officer Deepak Baliyan and Chandigarh’s standing counsel, Pankaj Jain. The committee has been asked to submit its report by April 30, which is the day fixed for the next hearing.

During the hearing of the petition, the High Court noted that there are three types of noise pollution. This includes the pollution caused by loudspeakers fitted at religious places, that caused by music played at marriages and public functions while the last one is caused by vehicles without silencers.

The division bench of Justices Murari and Arun Palli observed that under Article 21 of the Constitution, people have the right to live with dignity. No one has the right to take away this freedom and causing noise pollution constituted that interference. The Court had taken suo motu notice of the noise emanating from marriage venues and farmhouses in the suburbs of Chandigarh where loud music is played till late hours, disturbing people living in the vicinity as well as wildlife in the peripheral areas.

The notice was taken following a reference from Justice GS Sandhawalia of the High Court. He had said in his note that the UT police was expressing helplessness as it had no control over the amplified music coming in from villages in Panchkula, Mohali and the outskirts of Chandigarh, despite several complaints received from the villagers.

The judge in his note had said: “The issue arises that who will guard the guardians and whether such elected representatives/officers are beyond control and have total disregard for the other citizens of the country and the residents of the villages and the wildlife that is sensitive to such loud noise, and seeks refuge in sanctuaries shrinking on ground of human greed.”

The note from Justice Sandhawalia was referred to the chief justice’s bench which treated the issue as a PIL and subsequently issued notice to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh for April 30. Officials from Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh can expect an earful unless they come up with a solution to the vexed problem.

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