The Mumbai Police on Tueasday drew flak from the National Green Tribunal for causing noise pollution by using sirens and multi-toned horns in their over 4,000 vehicles and causing "harassment" to the public.
The Tribunal sought response from the Maharashtra government and the state pollution control board asking whether any standards have been laid down regarding noise pollution and what steps are taken against use of sirens in "silence zones".
It also sought answers on "ways and means to eradicate sound pollution".
The Tribunal was irked when an IPS officer, appearing in court following its earlier direction, stated that "use of sirens is an integral part of police work".
"How can you say that? This is like using 'danda' is integral for police work. Is the police above law?" a bench headed by Tribunal's Acting Chairperson A S Naidu said.
On the officer's reply that the police have been using sirens since long, the bench said "then discontinue it. If you have been violating a law you cannot be allowed to continue violating it".
The bench, however, said that use of sirens is necessary in a "city like Mumbai" but it is the absence of any standards that concerns it.
"Forty thousand-odd vehicles using sirens is a harassment to the people," said the bench.
The Tribunal sought replies from the state bodies and posted the matter for May 24 for hearing the plea filed by Dileep B Nevatia, a Mumbai resident.
Advocate Ritwick Dutta appearing for the petitioner told the bench that as per information received under RTI Act in June, 2010, as many as 4,164 police vehicles in Greater Mumbai area were are fitted with sirens.
Dutta said "over 4,000 police vehicles are using sirens. Purchase, installation and use of sirens by government vehicles is in violation of the noise pollution standards".
The petition filed by advocate Rahul Chaudhary has sought directions to the Maharashtra Government to specify standards for multi-tone horns fitted in vehicles in accordance with the noise pollution norms.
It said that the number of vehicles installed with multi-toned horns be limited to the "bare minimum".
Use of high volume sirens is violation of the provisions of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules (2000), the petition said.
It said the regional transport office of Maharashtra is approving fitting of multi-tone emitting sound in excess of 120 Decibels (A).
"These vehicle fitted with multi toned horns are emitting sound in far excess of the levels as provided for under the of Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules (2000)," it stated.
It stated that the transport commissioner is required to set the standards of sound signals and approve the vehicle for use of such sirens.
"However, over the last twenty two years, the Transport Commissioner has failed to set the standards of sound signals for vehicles fitted with sirens and/or multi tone horns.
"In the meantime, office of the Transport Commissioner and its Regional Transport Offices situated all over Maharashtra, are turning a blind eye to the fitments and use of multi toned horns and/or sirens emitting sound in excess of 120 decibels (A) on vehicles having red/amber/blue lights," it said.