In Re Noise Pollution Case
1. IN RE: NOISE POLLUTION- IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LAWS FOR RESTRICTING USE OF LOUDSPEAKERS AND HIGH VOLUME PRODUCING SOUND SYSTEMS (2005) (2 judge benchjudgment by R.C. Lahoti, CJI) The following cases were clubbed: a. A writ petition filed an engineer moving the Court pro bono publico. A 13 year old girl was a victim of rape and her cries for help were sunk by the blaring noise of music over loudspeakers in the neighbourhood. The Petitioner complained against the use of loudspeakers in religious performances, marriages, terrace parties etc. This causes chagrin to students during exams. The principal prayer was that the existing laws for restricting the use of loudspeakers and other high volume noise producing audio-video systems be directed to be rigorously enforced. b. The GoI framed and published Noise Pollution Control and Regulation Rules, 1999 which were subsequently mended to empower the State Government to permit the use of loudspeaker or public address system during night hours (between 10 pm and 12 pm) on or during the cultural or religious occasions for a limited period not exceeding 15 days. The Petitioner challenged the vires of this amendment arguing that in the absence of any guidelines, this power may be misused and may even frustrate the entire purpose of the Act. This was rejected by a Division Bench of the Kerala HC and a civil appeal was admitted by the SC. The above two cases were clubbed together and the Court decided: -
Art. 21 guarantees life and personal liberty to all persons. Includes human dignity. Anyone who wishes to live in peace, comfort and quiet within his house has a right to prevent the noise as pollutant reaching him. No one can claim a right to create noise even in his own premises which would travel beyond his precincts and cause nuisance to neighbours or others. Any noise which has the effect of materially interfering with the ordinary comforts of life judged by the standard of a reasonable man is nuisance.
Undoubtedly, the freedom of speech and right to expression are fundamental rights but the rights are not absolute. Nobody can claim a fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound of his speech with the help of loudspeakers. While one has a right to speech, others have a right to listen or decline to listen. Nobody can be compelled to listen and nobody can claim that he has a right to make his voice trespass into the ears or mind of others.
The Court examined various definitions of Noise and Noise Pollution and enlisted its multiple harmful effects: hearing loss, interference with communication, disturbance of
sleep, annoyance, effect on performance, psychological effects stress and the impact on unborn and young children. -
It also enlisted the leading sources of Noise Pollution: road traffic noise, aircraft noise, noise from railroads, construction activities, industry, buildings, consumer products and fireworks.
The Court also undertook an analysis of the legislations in other countries such as Noise Abetment Act, 1960 (UK); English Control of Pollution Act, 1974; Anti Pollution Basic Law (Japan), US Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, 1970 etc. Laws from China and Australia were also examined.
The following statutory enactments and other laws from India were also analysed: a. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control Rules), 2000. b. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Ss. 268, 290 and 291). c. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (S. 133) d. Factories Act, 1948 (Ss. 89 and 90) e. Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and Rules framed thereunder f. Law of torts: Nuisance g. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 h. EPA, 1986
Important Indian cases on the point (including Charan Lal Sahu v. UoI and M.C. Meheta v. UoI 2004) were analysed.
Apex Court issued following directions (these are just some of them): 1. Firecrackers to be evaluated on basis of chemical composition 2. Department of Explosive directed to conduct study for this purpose and to specify composition of chemicals allowable in firecrackers 3. Firecrackers to be divided into light emitting and sound emitting category – complete ban on bursting sound emitting firecrackers between 10 pm and 6 am 4. Manufacturers of firecrackers directed to mention on box of firecrackers the components used in it 5. Manufacturers to be held liable in case formulae used by them does not match with specification of DOE 6. Manufacturers permitted to export firecrackers with higher noise level subject to strict control 7. Regarding use of loudspeaker Court directed that noise level at boundary of public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used shall
not exceed 10 dB(A) above ambient noise standards for area or 75 dB(A) whichever is lower 8. Beating of drum or tom-tom or blow of trumpet or beat or sound of any instrument or use of any sound amplifier at night (between 10. 00 p.m. and 6.a.m.) except in public emergencies prohibited 9. Peripheral noise level of privately owned sound system restricted to dB(A) 10. Blowing of vehicular horn in residential area at night hours prohibited 11. State directed to add chapters in text books regarding ill effects of noise pollution 12. State directed to specify ambient air quality standards in different areas 13. State also directed to seize loud speakers and amplifiers making noise beyond permissible limit. 14. No horn should be allowed at night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in residential areas except in exceptional circumstances. -
The Court held that the restrictions on the use of fire crackers are not violative of Art. 25.