Indian authorities in Mumbai have refused to grant Christians permission to hold outdoor Holy Week services, citing the city's noise pollution rules.
Some of the churches hold the services on open grounds that fall in Mumbai's silent zones because they are attached to church-run schools, The Hindu reported. The authorities have cited the city's noise pollution rules in their refusal to grant permission to the churches as the services will involve the use of loudspeakers.
"Several churches in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have informed us that they have not been given the written permission to hold the services. Some police stations have said that they will not give anything in writing and will only act if someone complains," said Fr. Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of Archdiocese of Bombay.
Barrett contended that the denial of a permit for the Holy Week services was unfair because the schools will be on holiday.
Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation argued that the rules only prohibit the use of loudspeakers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
"Our services get concluded well before 10 p.m. Therefore, there is no chance of any breach if we get the written permission," Pimenta stated.
Pimenta contended that the services would require loudspeakers because large parishes with open grounds prefer to hold large gatherings that are attended by 2,000 people.
Activist Sumaira Abdulali, the convener of Awaaz Foundation, noted that the noise level in silent zones should not exceed 50 decibels, which, he said, was not possible with traditional loudspeakers. He suggested the use of distributed sound systems for the services to ensure that the decibel level would be within the permissible limit.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Police Public Relations Officer Ashok Dudhe denied the allegations that the police have denied permission to churches.
"We had received some messages of permission being denied in a few churches. I personally called and checked the police stations and learnt that no one was denied permission," Dudhe stated.
According to Times of India, some churches have come up with ways to continue holding Holy Week services outdoors without violating noise pollution rules.
Some churches will be using multiple small speakers to dissipate sound over a large area, while others have put the loudspeakers inside the premises of their adjacent schools instead of putting them on open ground.