This article has been written by Arkodeep Gorai, a fourth year student of Amity Law School, Noida. In this article he discusses how noise pollution is prevented and controlled in India.
Throughout history, humans have always ignored the problem related to Noise Pollution. But with modernisation, the problem of noise pollution can no longer be ignored. The government and the general public need to take preventive measures to stop noise pollution which causes the problem to humans, animals and plants. In this article, we will look into the causes and statutory provisions related to noise pollution.
Noise pollution simply means when there is a lot of noise in the environment which is consequentially harming the environment then it can be termed as noise pollution.
Section 2(a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 states that noise is actually a part of air pollutant.
Noise can be defined as unwanted or undesired sound. Noise is non-harmonious and but even music played loudly can also become noise.
Measurement of noise
The system of the physical unit or the SI unit for measurement of noise is decibel (dB). So to get a clear reference on the decibel scale we can look into a few examples:
20 to 25 dB is a whisper, 30 dB is noise at a quiet home, 60 dB is a normal conversation and 80 dB is the level of noise where it becomes physically uncomfortable for people.
Sources of noise pollution
Noise pollution is generally a by-product of action. Noise pollution is a consequential event so noise pollution definitely has a source and we will be looking further into the sources of noise pollution.
Traffic Noise- Except for the new generations of electric cars and bikes almost all the vehicles release a high amount of noise. India is already the second most populous country in the world and a lot of people own either a four-wheeler or a two-wheeler vehicle or both. A normal car releases around 85 dB of noise and a bike releases around 90 dB of noise. Additionally, Indians have a bad habit of honking the horn of their vehicles which additionally causes much more noise pollution.
Air-Craft Noise- Passenger planes, cargo planes, low flying military aircraft all of them combine together to cause more noise pollution. Initially, passenger planes were out of the picture but with new airports building near housing societies, the passenger planes are causing more problems than ever.
Noise due to commercial and industrial activities- Globalisation and Modernisation of India has led to an emphatic increase in a number of large industries and low-level industries. Most of the industries require heavy machinery to work and function. Even though industries do not affect communities that much but the noise pollution.
Noise from social gathering or event- Parties, religious ceremonies, clubs etc they all fall under the category of social gathering or event. Even such social gatherings also create quite a nuisance and cause a considerable amount of noise pollution.
Household noise- The scope of noises from household sources are too large but some typical examples would be barking of pet dogs, playing loud music at your house, usage of various kitchen appliances and more. Even such actions cause noise pollution in the environment.
Harmful effects of noise pollution
Whatever the source may be for noise pollution but the fact is noise pollution is harmful to human beings, animals and the environment as a whole. Initially, noise pollution was not evident and it did not cause much concern but in the last century noise pollution has been pervasive and intense. The harmful effects of noise pollution are as follows:
- Lack of concentration- Noise pollution results in lack of concentration in many individuals. If a work environment is quiet then it leads to higher productivity of a person. High level of noise can cause headaches which can act as a barrier for a high level of concentration.
- Blood pressure- Noise pollution increases the tension in a human being. These tensions further put pressure in a person’s mental health and as a result, it leads to high blood pressure.
- Abortion- During the delivery of a baby there is an absolute requirement for a cool and calm environment, if there is too much noise then it irritates the baby and it can actually lead to abortion.
- Deafness- This is easily one of the most common harmful effects of noise pollution. If a person exposes themselves to a high level of noise for an extended period of time it can easily cause temporary or permanent deafness in a human being.
- Effects on plants and crops- Plants are similar to human beings and even they are sensitive to loud noises. When crops are exposed to too much noise then the quality of the crops drastically reduces.
- Effects on animals- Noise pollution is particularly very dangerous for animals. Their nervous system is damaged due to noise pollution. Since they do not have the intelligence of humans so they are much more vulnerable to the ill effects of noise pollution compared to human beings.
Statutory provisions related to noise pollution in India
There are various statutory provisions related to noise pollution in India. Such provisions are spread across various laws and amendments and the various statutory provisions are as follows-
1. Constitution of India
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution grants the right to life to the citizens of India. Through various Supreme Court pronouncements, it has been made clear that the right to life doesn’t just mean mere existence or survival of a person. The scope of Article 21 is large and it is stated that it ensures a person to live with dignity or right to a better life.
So any person who faces problems due to noise pollution and it disrupts the person’s peace and comfort then it means the noise pollution is violating the person’s right to life.
2. The Code of Criminal Procedure
Section 133 of The Code of Criminal Procedure empowers an executive magistrate, district magistrate or sub-divisional magistrate to conditionally remove something that is causing a nuisance.
So this provision can be used or utilised in case of nuisance caused by noise. So if the executive magistrate, district magistrate or sub-divisional magistrate receives a report from a police officer or from some other source that loud noises are causing unlawful obstruction or nuisance and the source of such loud noises must be removed from public places which are lawfully used by the public then the executive magistrate, district magistrate or sub-divisional magistrate within a fixed time can order removal of such nuisance. If the executive magistrate, district magistrate or sub-divisional magistrate doesn’t take the required action then, in that case, this section can be called into question in a Civil Court.
3. Indian Penal Code
Chapter 14 of the Indian Penal Code deals with certain offences. Such offences are any action that affects public health or safety. Section 268, Section 287, Section 288, Section 290, Section 291 and Section 294 deals with noise pollution.
Section 268 talks about public nuisance and any person who is guilty of any public nuisance if that person commits an act which can cause injury to any person, which may irritate the general public or which can cause any general obstruction. So causing noise pollution also comes under the provisions of Section 268.
Section 287 talks about irresponsible use of any machinery. Any person who irresponsibly handles any machinery which later causes injury or harm to someone. So if someone is causing noise pollution with a machine then, in that case, that person may attract imprisonment up to 6 months or a fine of Rs. 1000.
Section 288 states that when a building is under the process of construction or repairmen then in that case if a person negligently causes injury to someone then that person is liable for imprisonment for a term of 6 months along with a fine of Rs. 1000.
Now during construction or repair of buildings, there is significant noise pollution. So such noise pollution can easily result in harming an individual or the general public and if something like that happens then the offender is punished under Section 288 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 290 talks about any other form of public nuisance which has not been mentioned under the Indian Penal Code. So basically if there is any noise related incident which has not been mentioned under the code and such noise related incident is causing some form of a public nuisance then, in that case, the offender is served a fine of Rs. 200.
Section 291 states that if a person still continues causing public nuisance even when the person has been served injunction by a Court of law and such injunction is already ordering the person to not repeat such acts then in that case the person is punished with imprisonment of 6 months or he can be fined.
Section 294 talks about indecent songs and it further state if a person plays or recite or sing such indecent songs then in that he is causing a nuisance. Such an offender is jailed for a term of 3 months with fine or both.
4. Law of Torts
Noise pollution can be included under the offence of nuisance under the law of torts. Any person who is facing an issue due to such noise pollution can file a civil suit to claim damages. As long as there is interference in the use of land by the person due to the noise pollution and the person can prove such damages then in that case the person can file a suit related to such noise pollution.
5. Motor Vehicle Act
The Motor Vehicle Act lays down guidelines and related to the use of horns in vehicles. Horns that are too loud and causes nuisance are not allowed to be used under this Act.
6.Noise Pollution Control Rule, 2000 under The Environment Protection Act, 1996
The Noise Pollution Control Rule was amended in the year 2000 by the Indian Government to tackle and restrain noise pollution and it was made a part of The Environment Protection Act, 1996.
Under this rule, the government categorised territories as industrial, commercial and residential areas and the noise standard for such categorised territories were specified under this rule. This rule also stated that within the area of 100 meters of any hospital, schools, universities and court premises must be declared as silence zone and minimal noise shall be made in the 100 meters range.
The noise standard for day time in industrial areas is 75 dB, commercial areas are 65 dB, residential areas is 55 dB and for silence zone is 50 dB. The noise standard for night time in industrial areas is 70 dB, commercial areas are 55 dB, residential areas is 45 dB and for silence zone is 40 dB.
Also, this rule states that any loudspeaker can only be used after it has been permitted by the authority and such loudspeaker cannot be used from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and any person violating these rules becomes an offender and such an offender is liable for punishment and fine.
This rule is implemented across the territory of India.
Case laws related to noise pollution in India
In this case, there were certain restrictions imposed in the State of West Bengal regarding the use of microphones. The restriction was that microphones cannot be used from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and only public authorities can use microphones in that time period.
The petitioners filed a writ application. The petitioners stated that azaan is part of their religion and such restrictions are violating their Article 25 which allows freedom of religion.
The court disposed of their petition and it stated that other people cannot be forced to listen to such azaan and the following restriction is not violating their Article 25 by any means and the police under the state of West Bengal were directed to confiscate any microphone used before 7 a.m.
The appellant, in this case, used to sell vegetables. In the process of selling, he used to auctions the price of vegetables which caused disruptions and nuisance. This auctioning was used to be carried out in private but still, it caused disruptions. The Court passed a restraining order in auctioning.
Later the Supreme Court repealed the orders and stated that under Section 133 of CrPC and stated that Section 133 was not made to stop such trade merely on the ground of disruption and discomfort. Hence, the appellant was allowed.
We can say that India with time has addressed the issue of noise pollution and the damages it can cause. By implementation of several laws regarding noise pollution, it can be said that the Indian Government is doing its part in the prevention and control of Noise Pollution.