The above news item appeared in the Daily Mirror on February 28, 2016. According to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) Chairman, the driving licences of 285 drivers who had failed the test carried out to check the use of unauthorised horns in vehicles had been confiscated by the police.
The reason is for causing noise pollution by sounding horns. The CEA should be commended for doing this with the help of the Environmental Police Unit and the Motor Traffic Department.
The CEA chief says that sounding of horns is disturbing and upsetting to road users, including pedestrians and that it is a major contributor to noise pollution’. We entirely agree with the him. However we are surprised that the Chairman appears to be unaware of the ‘noise pollution’ created day in, day out not only in private buses but also in certain State-run buses (SLTB) and three wheelers by their cacophonous music et al emanating from their loud speakers and woofers.
Nevertheless, it is well known to the general public, including school children how they are harassed, disturbed and intimidated by this intolerable form of public nuisance. Passengers in a bus are often affected and irritated by this in various ways. For example, when a passenger rings the bell in order to get off, neither the conductor nor the driver hears it due to the noise of the loudspeaker, resulting in the bus not stopping at the halt where the passenger is supposed to get down. Worst of all, the driver is concentrating mostly not on driving the bus but on listening to and enjoying his preferred piece of music. Needless to say that the passengers travel in buses not for the purpose enjoying music or some third grade radio programmes that are broadcast through certain private radio channels. Even the most ignoramus will realise that negligent driving is one of the main reasons for the fatal road accidents that occur in our country almost on a daily basis.
"To add insult to injury, some private and SLTB buses are equipped with TV screens and show all types of absurd tele-dramas and songs with visuals, which too are highly inappropriate to small children."
The above noise pollution causes another irreparable damage. That indirectly corrupts our younger generation. The words in most of the songs -- most of which are vulgar duets played in buses are not at all suitable for schoolchildren. But they are compelled to listen to them. Should those innocent children who travel in buses every day be exposed to songs suitable for adults? One might say that some of them are exposed to such songs even in their homes. Preventing them from exposing to such inappropriate materials is the responsibility of their parents. But making them listen to such rubbish in buses which is a form of public transport will not be condoned by any decent person. To add insult to injury, some private and SLTB buses are equipped with TV screens and show all types of absurd tele-dramas and songs with visuals, which too are highly inappropriate for small children. The public still remember how a bus played a small part of an ugly pornographic movie though accidentally, on the TV mounted in a bus that was fully packed with passengers including school children! Majority of the small children who travel in buses get attracted to these types of rubbish movies and music, as their parents are unable to afford for private transport apart fro the rich and the privileged. It is a
It is unbelievable that the Environmental Police Unit of the CEA has apparently turn a blind eye to the noise pollution caused by buses, in spite of the fact that on November 9, 2007, the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered a ruling with regard to sound pollution. The court held that nobody could claim the fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound with the help of loudspeakers, just as much as one has the right to speech, others have the right to listen or decline to listen. Nobody has the right to make his voice trespass into the ears or minds of others (Extracted from the article “Supreme Court Judgement on Noise Pollution” which appeared in Good Governance and the Rule of Law by Dr. A.C. Visvalingam). This means, as the writer understands, causing sound pollution by way of loudspeakers or TV sets in buses is contrary to the law.
If this offence is continually committed with impunity, the only conclusion the public might arrive at is that, even an order by the highest Court of Sri Lanka could be ignored with impunity.
At a time when politicians are splitting hairs over constitutional reforms, we are reminded of Aristotle’s famous saying “Where laws do not rule, there is no Constitution.