Officials confused on loudspeaker ban in parks

The state government's Kannada and Culture department and the BBMP say they are permitted to use loudspeakers in BBMP parks. This despite a High Court order stating the exact opposite.

If you live around a BBMP park in any part of Bangalore and are wondering whether the park’s open space or stage can be used with loudspeakers for a community event, think again. For one, use of loudspeakers in BBMP parks was barred by the High Court over a year ago. But more importantly, each BBMP official you talk to today will you give a different impression about the exact ban – who and what are allowed or disallowed are still unclear.

On May 9th 2010 a music programme, called Udaya Raaga, scheduled to be held at the JP Nagar 3rd phase Mini forest park was cancelled. This was said to be because of a Karnataka HC order, passed in March last year, which states that the BBMP cannot allow the installation "of loud speakers and any other public sound systems or to play music through the said systems" in any park belonging to the Corporation. A notice was given to the BBMP, BESCOM and Commissioner of Police. None of the respondents contested the HC ruling.

Udaya Raaga program

The Kannada and Culture department’s ‘Udaya Raaga’ programme held in JP Nagar 3rd phase Mini Forest. Pic courtesy: Nagaraj Rao

Citizen Matters carried out a check on what this order meant and how clearly this order has been understood by your local authorities.

Despite a year having passed, there seems to be uncertainty among both state government and city officials over this. In fact utter confusion seems to prevail – with a coherent view not emerging from all authorities.

Even as several officials in the BBMP’s Horticulture department seemed to be on the same page about not allowing the use of loudspeakers in BBMP parks, some of them said that the the state’s Kannada and Culture department does conduct music programmes on a regular basis, where loudspeakers are used. The High Court did not specifically exempt use of loudspeakers by government or government-sponsored entities.

The HC order is a blanket one for all BBMP parks, meant to be followed by one and all. But the BBMP’s Joint Director (Horticulture), A Narayanaswamy says that only BBMP programmes and Kannada and culture department programmes are allowed, where the use of loudspeakers is permitted. "BBMP programmes like for national festivals and the Kannada and Culture department conducts sangeetha sabhas. For political functions and all, we don’t allow", says Narayanaswamy. Ask him if the HC order doesn’t apply to the state department and the BBMP itself, and there’s no response.

BBMP’s Superintendent of Horticulture (South) Doddakandegowda says, "In general, we don’t give permission", but quickly contradicts himself saying that programmes can be held in parks which have an in-built stage. He gives an example of a programme that was held at Bugle rock park in Basavangudi about ten to 15 days ago.

For it’s part, the the Kannada and Culture department’s Director Manu Baligar says they conduct programmes mostly on request. "The music is mild. We do this about once a month", Baligar says. Baligar however said that he wasn’t aware of the HC order directing the BBMP to not allow the use of louspeakers in their parks. He also could not name any specific BBMP park where programmes are held. Incidentally, the May 9th programme that was cancelled at JP Nagar Miniforest park was by the Kannada and Culture department.

Interestingly, these music programmes by the Kannada and Culture department are a regular affair. The department conducts ‘Udaya Raaga’ on most Sundays across various parks in the city. This is confirmed by a letter that the Director wrote to one C K Nagaraj Rao, a resident of JP Nagar 3rd phase who is a volunteer for these programmes.

In this letter dated April 21st 2010, a copy of which is with Citizen Matters, the Director mentions that regular music programmes are held by the department at parks including Lalbah, Indiranagar (BBMP park) HAL 2nd stage park, JP Nagar Mini forest, Brindavana in Banashankari, Swami Vivekanada park in Basaveshwarnagar and JP park in Mathikere. ‘Udaya Raaga’ which is generally held in the evenings in these parks has been shifted to the morning hours because of the imminent rains, says the letter.

This, clearly confirming disregard for the HC order.

Citizens unaware

To check on whether citizens living close to well-endowed BBMP parks were aware of the goings on, Citizen Matters spoke to a resident of BTM Layout II stage, C B Madappa. BTM II Stage has a major park on 15th Main Road, which includes a walking track, manicured gardens, a skating rink and a stage. Madappa, a committee member of BTM Residents’ Welfare Association, says that he has seen music programmes being held at this park. This, with the use of mics and loudspeakers.

Signboards in BBMP park

Signboards in BBMP parks do not reflect the High Court order which bans the use of loudspeakers and public address systems in parks. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent

In March 2010, in the run-up to the BBMP elections, Citizen Matters had approached the Deputy Commissioner (South) Iyappa to obtain permission to conduct an election debate for the BTM area wards at this very park. However, Iyappa did not mention anything about the HC order and merely said that the State Election Commission must greenlight the event since the election code of conduct was in force.

Eventually, Citizen Matters  held at the AICOBOO Nagar ground in BTM I stage near the 16th Main/Advaitha Petrol Bunk intersection.

All this apart, signboards in BBMP’s parks are not reflect the HC’s order either. Most signboards only mention the basic do’s and don’t’s with regard to littering, walking on the lawn, use of plastic and so on.

How the order came about

This was after a Public Interest Litigation was filed by two residents of JP Nagar – P Kodanda Ramaiah and B S Kumaraswamy. Ramaiah is a retired IPS officer, ex-MP, member of the Indian National Congress (INC) party and former Bangalore police commissioner. Kumaraswamy is a civil engineer, environmentalist and INC party member.

It all started in 2008, when former police commissioner Ramaiah, a resident of JP Nagar 3rd phase, saw music programmes being held at the Miniforest Park, located right opposite his house. "You need the permission of the Corporation and the police to use loudspeakers. But these people hadn’t got anything", he says. Ramaiah then started objecting to this as it disturbs the birds in the park as well those who use the park for walking and playing.

Ramaiah and Kumaraswamy took the matter to the High Court which ruled in their favour. As Ramaiah says, "Parks are not for public functions. You have community halls for this".

Comments:

  1. Vishwanath Srikantaiah says:

    Vaishnavi can one get a copy of the High Court order anywhere?
    This is a great article however and very apt that the issue of noise pollution is raised.

  2. Srikanth Parthasarathy says:

    Excellent article and good job done by CM on exploring the HC’s decision.
    I was actually happy to read that HC has banned the loudspeakers in public parks. But It was discouraging to hear that there is a huge communication gap between the departments internally!

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