On Tuesday(20/08/2021, the Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench took suo moto cognizance of noise pollution caused by the modified bikes, including Royal Enfield Bullets and "other new era two-wheelers" in the case, Noise pollution through modified silencers, Suo Motu PIL v. the State of UP.
A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Abdul Moin passed this order while hearing a suo motu PIL on noise pollution through modified silencers. The Court said that the problem of noise pollution is like "the legend of Hydra where anyone who attempted to behead the Hydra found that as soon as one head was cut off, two more heads would emerge from the fresh wound, so much so that the destruction of the Hydra became one of the 12 labors of Hercules".
In the statutes
Modifying the silencer of the two-wheeler or driving vehicle by removing or altering the noise muffler is punishable under the provisions of Section 190 (2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Further, referring to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, the Court observed that a mandate is placed on the State Government to take measures for abatement of noise including noise emanating from vehicular movements.
The Court said that the vehicle riders have modified the noise mufflers/silencers so much so that a vehicle being driven can be heard hundreds of meters away whereby causing immense discomfort to the old, aged and infirm persons as well as the young children and other persons who may require silence.
Justice Moin said that a plain reading of Section 52 along with Section 190 (2) of the Act, 1988 indicates that no motor vehicle owner can alter the vehicle at variance with the original specified by the manufacturer. Moreover, any person who drives a motor vehicle in any public place which violates the standards prescribed in relation to control of the noise shall be liable to a penalty as specified under Section 190 (2) of the Act, 1988. Thus, in case a person is modifying the silencer of the two-wheeler or the vehicle is being driven by him by removing or altering the noise muffler, he would be liable for action under the provisions of Section 190 (2) of the Act, 1988.
Measurement of noise
Thereafter significantly the court referred to material available on the Yale University website to understand what is meant by 80 Decibel, as prescribed under law. The Court found that a decibel level (dBA) of 80 dB (A) is comparable to a telephone dial tone and where dB (A) of 8090 at sustained exposure has been described to result in hearing loss.
Foreign motorcycles not manufactured in India
The Court further took care of the fact that a plea could be taken by bike riders that the Act, 1988 may not be applicable on foreign motorcycles as they are not manufactured in India. Such bikes could fall in the category of being Harley Davidson, Hyosung, UN Commando, Suzuki Intruder, Big Dog, northern commando, etc.
However, the court held that said excuse merits rejection taking into consideration the Rules, 2000 which are applicable for all vehicular movement and not restricted to Indian-made vehicles 6 and bikes alone. It would be pertinent to mention that as per information available on the website of “Roanoke.com”, the Harley Davidsons have got a noise level of dB (A) of 100 with no muffler and thus the noise being caused by such imported two-wheelers/bikes can very well be understood.
Cops and the law
In February 2021, the Commissioner of Police, Pimpri-Chinchwad ordered a drive against Royal Enfield motorcycles that were using an after-market exhaust. The cops caught 2,970 owners during the span of four months. The owners who were breaking the law were fined. The cops charged Rs. 1,000 on any motorcycle that was modified. The police were able to gather Rs 29.7 lakh in form of fines. Notice to sellers who sell after-market exhausts was sent. The notice said that the police would take strict action if the shops are found selling the illegal after-market exhausts.
the division bench of the court had already taken note of noise pollution caused by loudspeakers in 2017. However, that public interest litigation is still pending before the court.
On the issue, the state government had stepped in and brought out an order in 2018 to control blatant misuse of loudspeakers.
The respondents have been asked to indicate to the Court the action which has been taken against the vehicles causing noise pollution through modified silencers by the next date of hearing.