LAHORE: The Punjab government promulgated on Saturday yet another ordinance to regulate use of sound systems by anyone, allowing only one loudspeaker to the places of worship including mosques and only for “azan”, Arabic Khutba and announcements of death or lost persons or things.

The declared purpose of the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Ordinance 2015 is to prevent public nuisance and the voicing of utterances of a controversial nature likely to cause public disorder.

It is also to regulate, control and prohibit the use of certain sound systems in the province in the interest of environment, public order, decency and the prevention of incitement to terrorism or the commission of any offence. It describes the worship places as a mosque, imambargah, church, temple or any other place of worship of any sect or religion.

The ordinance makes it unlawful for any person to use, or assist in using, permit or allow use of a sound system which generates any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise or any noise which annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of persons in or beyond the vicinity.

The law prohibits use of sound system at any place in the vicinity of a place of worship during prayer times, a hospital providing 24-hour facilities for indoor patients or not, educational institution, a court, office or undertaking during their usual working hours at a volume or in a manner whereby the working or the use of the establishment is likely to be disturbed, a house or any other place used for human dwelling, at any time as may be prescribed.

It also prohibits such use of sound system in a place of worship in a manner or at a volume whereby any sound could be heard beyond ten yards outside the boundaries of the place of worship, or in any public or private place, for the voicing of any sectarian or other utterances of a controversial nature likely to lead to public disorder, if such utterances are or may be heard outside or beyond the immediate limits or precincts of such place.

Violator can have six-month jail, fine

The ordinance allows one external sound system at a place of worship for the purpose of Azan, Arabic Khutba for Friday and Eid prayers, announcement of death of a person, lost or found a thing or a person.

An external sound system at a public place and during reasonable hours can be used with the prior permission of the government or an officer authorised by it if the use of such sound system is in accord with the conditions mentioned in such permission.

The law provides that a police officer in charge of the local area police station shall, at such regular intervals as may be prescribed, inspect or cause to be inspected sound systems of every place of worship to ensure compliance with its provisions, and shall maintain record of all such inspections in the prescribed manner.

Violation of the law will lead to imprisonment up to six months and fine from Rs25,000 to Rs100,000.The law authorises a police officer not below the rank of ASI to seize any sound system used or reasonably suspected to have been used in the commission of an offence under this Ordinance.

An offence under the ordinance is cognizable and non-bailable, and the trial is summary.

The government or an authorised officer may compound an offence under the ordinance subject to the deposit of administrative penalty not less than Rs25,000. But this could not be done if the accused had earlier availed the facility or been previously convicted.

Published in Dawn January 11th , 2014

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