Posted on April 26th, 2012

A Sri Lankan

The recent unfortunate incidents in Dambulla have drawn public attention not only to the presence of unauthorized places of worship on historical sacred sites, but also to the use of loudspeakers installed at such places beginning at 4.30 a.m. calling on people to pray in an area that is inhabited overwhelmingly ( more than 95 % ) by people belonging to other faiths.   This has become a source of unnecessary disturbance and tension in what is basically a rural area i.e. Dambulla, known for its peace and tranquility.

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has delivered a historic judgment on 9th November, 2007 in a case relating to Noise Pollution.  This decision was hailed and welcomed with great acclamation by the public of Sri Lanka.

The Supreme Court delivered its decision following submissions among others by a litigant that the Court must protect the fundamental rights of the people such as the:

1)      Right to Silence

2)      Right to Quiet Enjoyment of Property

3)      Right to sleep undisturbed by sound amplified by mechanical devices

4)      Right to be left alone

5)      The Collective Rights of a captive audience to be protected from aural aggression and abuse of use of amplifiers, and that the

6)      Use of a Loudspeaker does not constitute a part of the Fundamental Right of Freedom of Worship

The full text of the Supreme Court decision can be viewed by visiting the following web link:

The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has made an evaluation of the monumental decision of the Supreme Court Judgment as follows:

On 9 November 2007, the Supreme Court gave its decision in a case where, in simplified terms, the right of one party to use loudspeakers was weighed against the annoyance, disturbance and harm caused to those other parties who are compelled against their will to listen to the amplified sounds which emanate from these loudspeakers.  This judgment has been greatly acclaimed.  However, some readers may not have had the opportunity of reading the entirety of the order, which contains much valuable information regarding the position of the law in respect of noise pollution, especially that caused by the inconsiderate use of loudspeakers.  In the belief that more citizens should be made acquainted with the essence of the judgment, the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) examines some of the highlights.

One issue considered by the Court was whether it was permissible to force members of the general public to become captive listeners “”…” in violation of their right to silence and the quiet enjoyment of property “”…” on the grounds that a noise, which is an annoyance to the neighbourhood, is protected if it is made in the course of a religious ceremony, particularly if the Police have issued a license for the use of loudspeakers under Section 90 of the Police Ordinance of 1865.  The Court held that nobody can claim the fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound of his speech with the help of loudspeakers because, just as much as one has the right of 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.

As for the religious aspect, the Court has stated clearly that no religious body is entitled, by reason of claimed religious practice, to commit a public nuisance.  A police permit is not a protection against being charged for creating a public nuisance under Section 261 of the Penal Code.  The Court has indicated that there is no requirement in the teachings of any religion that loudspeakers should be used in its rituals.  Indeed, all of us know that, for a large proportion of the life of the major religions, loudspeakers did not even exist.  Happily, judging by the letters appearing in our national newspapers, many of the complaints against Muslim loudspeaker noise come from Muslims themselves and many of the complaints against Buddhist loudspeaker noise come from Buddhists.  There has not been much comment from the followers of the other religions, which may, perhaps, be taken as their acceptance of the reasonableness and fairness of the order of the Court.

Historically, there is reason to believe that the increasing use of loudspeakers in Sri Lanka for religious purposes owes its origin to a tit-for-tat factor, which has built up over the years since the early 20th century, and that it is this factor that is at the heart of the competitive amplification of religious sounds.  It is very much to be hoped for that this rivalry will cease as a result of the Supreme Court’s judgment.  The Court also made it quite clear that Sri Lanka is a secular state and, constitutionally, protecting the environment and safeguarding public health require that there can be no exceptions to accommodate the perceived religious propensities of one group or another.  The idea must not be entertained that an annoying noise is protected if it is made in the course of a religious ceremony. No religion advocates a practice that would cause harm to an-other or damage the environment or create a health hazard.

The Court also held that a great deal of harm is done to schoolchildren, whose studies are disturbed and to sick people, whose recovery from illness is retarded.  It noted that noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress.

Even if a permit is given under Section 90 of the Police Ordinance, the noise emitted from the sound amplification equipment should not be allowed to extend beyond the precincts of the particular premises.  This would apply to outdoor musical performances, too.  A sufficient number of Police Officers should be designated and posted to the particular place of use to ensure that the conditions imposed are strictly complied with.  This stipulation, if properly implemented, should take care of the absurd demands of those who donate amplifying equipment to temples, kovils, mosques and churches and then insist that the whole neighbourhood should be made aware of their philanthropy by broadcasting not only religious material but much other rubbish at ear-splitting levels of volume.

CIMOGG strongly deplores the opportunistic efforts of certain persons who have tried to make cheap political capital out of this issue in order to gain the votes of religious noise-makers and the outdoor musical fraternity.

We believe that any remnants of ill-informed opposition to the order of the Supreme Court should be eradicated by all senior religious leaders stating categorically that the use of loudspeakers is not required for the practice of their respective religions other than to reach their congregations within the boundaries of their premises.  Musical artistes should hold their outdoor performances in open ground, away from residential areas, as is done in countries which do not tolerate any forms of public nuisance.


See also

Noise Pollution: let’s follow our neighbor by Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam

SC cries halt to loudspeaker ‘terrorism’

Sat, 2007-11-10 05:10

By Janaka Perera


  1. AnuD Says:

    It is the centuries old customs of Buddhists that Pirith is chanted loud and Drum beating is a custom in Sri lankan society. But, the mosque or the Church don’t have such customs. So, the Supreme court need to think about those.

    On the other hand, Mosques have started a new custom of praying loud by speakers early in the morning. That can not be understood.

    IT looks like the same muslim objection to beating drums in 1915 again.

    All these CIMOGG – type activities fit with the new societies such as North America and Australia. I don’t think majority Christian society allows other religions to do their activities free of hindrance.

    But, we cannot consider the same rule in Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka had some customs for centuries.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Ban all loud screaming especially by mosques. This is sound pollution.

  3. Dham Says:

    Screaming should be banned for certain hours say until 9.00 am. ( no need to say moques).
    Srceaming for religious purposes should banned whole day (no need to say moques).
    House to house religious campaining should alos be banned.
    Burqua should be banned. ( why this nonsence not there fo 500 year imported now form Saudi Arabia?)

    One thing I am worried. Can this incident be work of a US and Indian agents ? I am worried they want to cut-off voting of Muslim countries with us.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress