Ostensibly in India, Noise Pollution is one of the major environmental concerns, the major sources of noise pollution are: vehicular traffic, industries, household instruments, loudspeakers, etc. The control measures include silencer in vehicles, precautions during establishment of industries e.g. better technology adoption; use of ear plugs , etc. for workers; minimising the use of loudspeakers keeping them at low volume during public festivities and religious functions, growing of more trees, as trees absorb sound; etc.
Law relating to Noise Pollution in India
In India, various legislations contain provisions for noise abatement. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, The Industries Act, Specific Relief Act for redresses against health hazards, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 etc. and the 1987 Amendments to the Air Act, 1981, specifically extend the provisions of the Act, including increased penalties, citizens’ suits and the issuance of injunctions by magistrates, to noise pollution.
In 1989, the Environment (Protection) Rules were amended to prescribe ambient air quality standards in respect of noise. These standards lay down the day time and night time limits of noise in industrial, commercial and residential areas as well as in “silence zones”. A silence zone is an area up to 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions, courts, etc. which is also declared by the competent authority. The use of vehicular horns, loudspeakers and the bursting of crackers are banned in silence zones.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000: Keeping in view the objective of maintaining the ambient air quality standards in respect of noise, the Central Government in exercise of its powers framed the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. These rules relate to maintaining of ambient air quality standards in respect of noise in different areas/ zones, responsibility as to enforcement of noise pollution control measures, restriction in the use of loudspeakers/public address systems, consequences of any violation in silence zones/ areas, authorities to whom complaints may be made for violation of the rules and the power to prohibit the continuation of noise pollution.
Under the Noise Rules, 2000, separate ambient levels are fixed for industrial, commercial and residential areas and silence zones. The prescribed day time level (6.00 AM to 10.00 PM) is typically ten decibels higher than the corresponding levels for night time. An area comprising not less than 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions and courts may be declared as ‘silence area/zone’ for the purpose of these rules [Rule 3 (5)]. The States are required to designate an authority or officer responsible for maintaining the ambient standards [Rule 4]. The designated authority could be the District Magistrate or Police Commissioner or any other official [Rule 2 (c)].
The noise pollution can be attached either under the law of torts or under the Code of Criminal Procedure as a nuisance. In 1992, Tis Hazari Court in Delhi ordered the municipal authorities to control noise level at public functions (however, the order remains ineffective till today). Noise pollution complaints are usually ineffective and not even recorded by the police. Nevertheless, the higher judiciary in India has evolved certain principles to check the noise pollution.
Case Law : Dhanna Lal vs. Thakur Chittar Singh:
This case is very much significant as the principles relating to private nuisance are enunciated in it.
Case Brief: The plaintiff respondent had his house at a distance of 8 or 9 feet from the flour mill belonging to the defendants. The plaintiff alleged that the working of flour mill caused great trouble to the occupants of the house, due to abnormal or unreasonable noise. The defendants contended that noise, however, can never amount to actionable nuisance, and that they have taken licence from the Municipal Committee.
Observations: The High Court first clarified the distinction between public and private nuisance. A public nuisance is always a criminal offence; the same cannot be said of a private nuisance. Thus, the acts constituting public nuisance are all of them unlawful acts; those which constitute private nuisances are not necessarily or usually unlawful. When a person’s conduct unduly interferes with his neighbour in the comfortable and convenient enjoyment of his land, it is a private nuisance. It will be manifest that making ‘unreasonable noises’ comes in this category and to be actionable it must be such as to be a real interference with the comfort or convenience of living according to the standards of the ‘average man’.
In Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare Association and others. This case is very famous and widely known as “Church Case” In this case, the question revolved around the right of a community to add to noise pollution on ground of religion. The Supreme Court affirmed the Bombay High Court’s order directing the Church to bring down the noise level by keeping their speakers at a lower level. It is a judgment of providence and prudence where the apex court has shown its anxiety for combating environmental assaults caused by human activities.
The court held – No religion prescribes that prayers should not be performed by disturbing the peace of others nor it preach that they should be through neither voice amplifiers nor beating of drums. In a civilized society in the name of religion, activities which disturb old or infirm persons, students or children or other persons cannot be permitted.
Because of urbanization or industrialization the noise pollution may in some area of a city/town be exceeding permissible limits, prescribed under the Rules, but that would not be a ground for permitting others to increase the same by beating of drums or by use of voice amplifiers/loudspeakers, etc. and, therefore rules prescribing reasonable restrictions including the Rules for the use of loudspeakers and voice amplifiers framed under the Madras Town Nuisance Act, 1889 and also Noise Rules, 2000 are required to be enforced. Rules 3 to 8 of the later Rules are unambiguous, clear and speak for themselves. However, there is lack of awareness among the citizens as well as the implementation authorities about the Rules of its duty to implement the same.
Measures to Curbing Noise Pollution: Followings are the immediate measures are needed to be taken and as follows:
- The prescribed standards regarding noise by Government of India may be enforced strictly in letter and spirit;
- Separate self contained legislation dealing with all aspects of noise pollution may be enacted;
- The case should be decided within a prescribed time limit;
- Limiting the hours of the use of loudspeakers in religious places and for other social gatherings and functions;
- The press and media should play a constructive role to highlight the disastrous effects of noise pollution and its remedy.
Thus, In Conclusion, I would like to state that a lot needs to be done to control this menace in India. People should be aware about the consequences of this major environmental concern which is often missed by our government; Noise pollution affects the overall healthy systems of society. Therefore, this issue may require more attention like other environment-related problems so as to could minimise the risk.
Sunny Kumar, Pursuing Ph.d,
Mewar University, Chittorgarh