Control of Noise Pollution: A Need of the Hour
Authored By- Anushka Mhatre
Keywords: noise, noise pollution, nuisance, sound, environment, health, law, loudspeakers.
Industrialization and urbanization raised the standard of living of people. But at the same time, gave rise to a number of environmental hazards which in turn have risked the lives of the people. Mother Nature today lacks fresh air, clean water, a noise-free atmosphere, and a healthy environment. Robert Koch, a noble prize winner bacteriologist said, “A day will come man will have to fight merciless noise as the worst enemy of health.”Population explosion, industries, vehicular traffic are various factors responsible for noise pollution thus deteriorating health and disturbing the ecosystem. This article aims at analyzing various ways and statutory provisions for combating the problem of noise pollution.
In our acoustic environment, a sound is peaceful and soothing. But as soon as it becomes undesirable and unbearable to hear, it turns into noise. Noise pollution is defined as unwanted and excessive sound that can have harmful effects on human health and the environment at large. Section 2(a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 expands the definition of ‘air pollution’ to include ‘noise’. It states that “air pollution means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance including noise present in the atmosphere such concentration as may be or tent to injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment”.Noise pollution today is already at its peak point. Nowadays, in rural areas as well, it is very difficult to hear the sound created only by nature.
Sources of Noise Pollution
The noise created due to big machines working at high speed, cutting off machines, boilers, foundry, mining, quarrying equipment, drills, blasting operations, etc. contributes significantly to noise pollution. The noise created due to vehicular traffic, honking of horns, aircraft, railways, public gatherings, firecrackers, loudspeakers, generators, household equipment are few non-industrial sources of noise pollution which adversely affect human health and environment.
Effects of noise pollution
No matter what the source of noise is, it is adversely affecting human beings and the environment. Lack of concentration, headache, blood pressure, stress, permanent deafness, etc. is few effects of noise pollution on humans. It also severely affects the nervous system of animals. Noise pollution leads to the destruction of vegetation on a large scale.
Prevention of noise pollution
The most tragic deadliest industrial disaster- The Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of people brought forward several inadequacies in our safety and environmental legislations. Several new laws for the protection of the environment were enacted and amendments were made to the existing laws, after this incidentfor the preservation and control of major accidents involving noise pollution, hazardous chemicals.
A glance at a few laws for combating noise pollution.
· The Constitution of India
The Indian Constitution guarantees citizens the right to life. The right does not means physical survival but also ensures a person to live with dignity. Justice Bhagwati in Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi[i], held that, “The right to life enshrined in article 21 cannot be restricted to a mere animal existence. It means something much more than just physical survival. The right to life includes the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with it.” With the introduction of articles 48A and 51A by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of 1996, the State is empowered to institute provisions that protect the sanctity of the natural environment including forests, wildlife, water bodies, etc. The Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. G. Chawla[ii]held that the State Governments had the power to introduce legislation on issues related to sound pollution under Entry 8, “Public Health and Sanitation of List II provided under the Seventh Schedule.”The Supreme Court has held in the case of Church of God (Full Gospel) v. K.K.R Majestic Colony Welfare Assn[iii]thatthe court may issue directions for controlling noise pollution if such noise was caused due to religious activities. It was also held in the case of Maulan Mufti Syed and Ors. v. State of West Bengal[iv]that the restriction on the use of loudspeakers and microphones between 9 pm to 7 am which includes the recitation of azan as well, is not violative of Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion.
· The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Chapter 14 of the IPC deals with offenses related to public health, safety, convenience, decency, and morals under Sections 268, 269, 270, 278, 279, 280, 287, 288, 290, 291, and 294. Noise is recognized as a public nuisance under Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code. In Bhuban Ram and Ors. v BibhutiBhushan Biswas[v], it was held that working of a paddy husking machine at night causes nuisance by noise and the occupier of the machine was held liable under Section 290 IPC.
· The Code of Criminal Procedure
Section 133 empowers the magisterial court to issue an order to remove or abate nuisance caused by noise pollution. The provision can be utilized in cases of nuisances related to the environment.
· Tort Law
Noise pollution is an offense of nuisance under the law of torts. Under tort law, a civil suit can be
filed claiming damages for the nuisance is there is reasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of land.
· The Police Act,1861
Section 30 of the Police Act of 1861 empowers the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and allied authorities to control the menace of noise due to various processions, marches, etc. It authorizes them to disperse crowds or declare assemblies as unlawful which create public nuisance and tends to disturb peace and order.
· The Aircraft Act,1934
The Act suggests constructions of aerodromes away from residential areas to prevent noise pollution. Under the Indian Aircraft (Public Health) Rules, 1946, the government is empowered to make rules to control noise pollution.
· The Motor Vehicles Act, 1939
The Motor Vehicles Act,1939 empowers the state governments to undertake legislation environmental degradation which includes emission of noise. The Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 prohibits the fitting of multi-toned horns and the emission of excessive smoke.
· The Factories Act 1948
Section 11 makes it obligatory for the owner to keep the factory free from any sort of nuisance including noise. Even though factories are the biggest contributor to noise pollution, the act does not contain any strict legal obligations on noise pollution.
· Noise Pollution Control Rules, 2000
The Noise Pollution Control Rules, 2000 were framed under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1996 with the objective to regulate and control noise pollution. The standard noise level for daytime in industrial, commercial, residential, and silence zones is 75 dB, 65 dB, 55 dB, and 50 dB respectively. The noise standard for nighttime in industrial areas is 70 dB, commercial areas are 55 dB, residential areas are 45 dB and for silence zone is 40 dB. According to these rules, loudspeakers are not allowed to operate without prior permission between 10 pm and 6 am. Areas not less than 100m around hospitals, educations institutions, and the court may be declared as silence zones. Anyone found violating these provisions is liable for punishment according to these rules and any other law in force.
In a report filed with the NGT on June 12, 2020[vi], the Central Pollution Control Board as brought amendments to the rules making punishments for violation more stringent. Under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, violation of noise pollution rules is a criminal offense with imprisonment up to five years and fine up to Rs 100,000.
Judiciary upholding the citizen’s right to enjoy a healthy atmosphere free from noise
The Madras High Court in Appa Rao, M.S. v. Govt. of T.N[vii] issued a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to impose strict rules for issue of license for use of loudspeakers and amplifiers and to direct the Director-General, Police (Law and Order) for imposing a total ban on the use of loudspeaker and air horns of automobiles.
The Supreme court in Re: Noise Pollution v. Unknown[viii] issued guidelines for combating noise pollution, thus restricting the use of loudspeakers and vehicular horns between 10 pm to 6 am, failure to observe the rules shall result in the confiscation of the equipment.
The Allahabad High Court in its recent judgment Pushpa Sharma v. State of UP &Ors. [ix]issued guidelines for creating a toll-free number for citizens to make complaints against noise pollution.
India as a developing country is facing many challenges in controlling noise pollution.No doubt more stringent laws are required for dealing with this issue, but at the same time implementation of the same is also important. Steps need to be taken on an individual level for reducing noise pollution. If not controlled today, this problem will have far-reaching effects and people have to think twice before stepping out of their houses.
[i]Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi, 1981 2 SCR 516. [ii]State of Rajasthan v. G. Chawla, AIR 1959 SC 544. [iii]Church of God (Full Gospel) v. K.K.R Majestic Colony Welfare Assn, AIR 2000 SC 2773. [iv]Maulan Mufti Syed and Ors. v. State of West Bengal AIR 1999 Cal. 15. [v]Bhuban Ram and Ors. v Bibhuti Bhushan Biswas AIR 1919 Cal. 539 [vi] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/pollution/noise-pollution-violations-new-fines-proposed-by-cpcb-step-in-right-direction-72415 [vii]Appa Rao, M.S. v. Govt. of T.N, Writ Petition no. 12165 of 1985. [viii]Re: Noise Pollution v. Unknown, AIR 2005 SC 3136. [ix]Pushpa Sharma v. State of UP & Ors., Writ Petition no. 14476 of 2019.