The following text is an abbriviated document of the 18 July 2005 Judgment. Essentially the early statements of the judgment and then the DIRECTIVES have been retained here. The rest could be had from the Supreme Court Website:
http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/qrydisp.asp?tfnm=27047 This seems to have been relocated (25 Dec 2009)
CJI R.C. LAHOTI & ASHOK BHAN
J U D G M E N T
Implementation of the Laws for restricting use of loudspeakers and high volume
producing sound systems
CIVIL APPEAL NO.OF 2005 [Arising out of SLP © No. 21851/2003]
Forum, Prevention of Envn. & Sound PollutionAppellant
Union of India & Anr.Respondents
These two matters before us raise certain issues of far-reaching implications in day-to-day life of the people in India relatable to noise pollution vis-a-vis right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution as interpreted in its wide sweep by the constitutional courts of the country.Though a limited grievance was raised to begin with but several intervenors and interlocutory applications enhanced the scope of hearing and the cases were heard in a very wide perspective centering around Article 21 of the Constitution.Several associated and incidental issues have also been gone into.
CWP No. 72/98 is filed by Shri Anil K. Mittal, an engineer by profession moving the Court pro bono publico.The immediate provocation for filing the petition was that a 13 year old girl was a victim of rape (as reported in newspapers of January 3, 1998).Her cries for help sunk and went unheard due to blaring noise of music over loudspeaker in the neighbourhood.The victim girl, later in the evening, set herself ablaze and died of 100% burn injuries.The petition complains of noise created by the use of the loudspeakers being used in religious performances or singing bhajans and the like in busy commercial localities on the days of weekly offs.Best quality hi-fi audio systems are used.Open space, meant for use by the schools in the locality, is let out for use in marriage functions and parties wherein merry making goes on with hi-fi amplifiers and loudspeakers without any regard to timings.Modern residents of the locality organize terrace parties for socializing and use high capacity stereo systems in abundance.These are a few instances of noise pollution generated much to the chagrin of students taking examinations who find it utterly difficult to concentrate on studies before and during examinations.The noise polluters have no regard for the inconvenience and discomfort of the people in the vicinity.Noise pollution has had its victims in the past and continues to have victims today as well.The petitioner seeks to invoke the writ jurisdiction of this Court so that there may not be victims of noise pollution in future.The principal prayer is 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.
Facts in C.A. No.of 2005 (Arising out of S.L.P.©
The Government of India framed and published Noise Pollution Control and Regulation Rules, 1999.On 11.10.2002 the Government of India brought in an amendment in the Rules.The amendment empowered the State Government to permit use of loudspeaker or public address system during night hours (between 10 pm and 12 pm mid-night) on or during the cultural or religious occasions for a limited period not exceeding 15 days.Vires of this amendment were put in issue by the appellant submitting that the provision is not accompanied by any guidelines and is capable of being misused to such an extent that the whole purpose behind enacting the Rules itself may be defeated.The High Court of Kerala found the petition devoid of any merit and directed the petition to be dismissed.Feeling aggrieved, this petition has been filed by special leave.
The special leave petition and, in particular, the writ petition raise issues of wide ranging dimensions relating to noise pollution and the implications thereof.Taking cognizance of the matters as public interest litigation, the Court vide its order dated 6.4.98, directed the cause title of the petition filed by Shri Anil Kumar Mittal to be amended as “In re. Noise PollutionImplementation of the Laws for Restricting Voice of Loudspeakers and High Volume Producing Sound System”.The Court also appointed Shri Jitender Sharma, Senior Advocate and Shri Pankaj Kalra, Advocate to appear as Amicus Curiae.Both the learned counsel were present in the Court and accepted the assignment.Unfortunately, Shri Pankaj Kalra, Advocate expired during the pendency of the proceedings.Shri Sandeep Narayan, Advocate has appeared in his place and assisted the Court.
The Union of India and the Central Pollution Control Board have not opposed the prayer made in the writ petition and the appeal and have rather supported the writ petitioner.Valuable inputs have been provided by the Central Pollution Control Board in the form of pleadings, authentic publications, research documents and other papers.The Union of India, while not opposing the relief sought for by the petitioner, has pointed out several practical difficulties in completely regulating and where necessary, eliminating noise pollution.
Though, as we have already noted, the sweep of hearing in these matters has been very wide, the principal thrust of the writ petitioner and the learned Amicus has been directed towards noise created by firecrackers, loudspeakers used __by political parties, at religious places and on religious and social occasions or festivals.
Hindu Bokta Jana Sabai, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces
Manufacturers Association, Universal Society Performance, All India
Federation of Fireworks Association, Indian Fireworks Manufacturers
Association and some individuals have sought for interventions.It
is not necessary to notice the contents of the intervention
applications in detail.Suffice it to say that the reliefs sought for in
the applications are conflicting.Some of the intervenors have
(i)noise created by horns of engines, pressure horns in automobiles, loudspeakers, denting painting of cars, particularly, in residential areas and from unauthorized premises being prohibited;
(ii)use of loudspeakers in religious places such as temples, mosque, churches, gurudwaras and other places being discontinued or at least regulated;
(iii)firecrackers burst during Diwali festival and on other occasions for fun or merry making being prohibited completely, if the noise created exceeds certain decibels and being so regulated as to prevent bursting during night hours.
Other set of intervenors seeks such like reliefs:-
(i)granting exemption in favour of bursting of firecrackers on or during festivals without regard to the limit of time as such bursting of firecrackers is associated with the performance of ceremonies relating to religion or social occasions;
(ii)laying down mechanism for regulating the very manufacturing of firecrackers so that such firecrackers as unreasonably enhance noise pollution may be kept away from entering the markets and playing into the hands of the people.
It is obvious that during the course of the hearing the scope got enlarged and the Court has been addressed on very many issues from very many angles.
Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees life and personal liberty to all persons.It is well settled by repeated pronouncements of this Court as also the High Courts that right to life enshrined in Article 21 is not of mere survival or existence.It guarantees a right of persons to life with human dignity.Therein are included, all the aspects of life which go to make a person’s life meaningful, complete and worth living.The human life has its charm and there is no reason why the life should not be enjoyed along with all permissible pleasures.Anyone who wishes to live in peace, comfort and quiet within his house has a right to prevent the noise as pollutant reaching him.Noone 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.How and when a nuisance created by noise becomes actionable has to be answered by reference to its degree and the surrounding circumstances, the place and the time.
Those who make noise often take shelter behind Article 19(1)A pleading freedom of speech and right to expression.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.Nobody can indulge into aural aggression.If anyone increases his volume of speech and that too with the assistance of artificial devices so as to compulsorily expose unwilling persons to hear a noise raised to unpleasant or obnoxious levels then the person speaking is violating the right of others to a peaceful, comfortable and pollution-free life guaranteed by Article 21.Article 19(1)A cannot be pressed into service for defeating the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21.We need not further dwell on this aspect.Two decisions in this regard delivered by High Courts have been brought to our notice wherein the right to live in an atmosphere free from noise pollution has been upheld as the one guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.These decisions are Free Legal Aid Cell Shri Sugan Chand Aggarwal alias Bhagatji v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi and others, AIR (2001) Delhi 455 (D.B.) and P.A. Jacob v.Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, AIR (1993) Kerala 1.We have carefully gone through the reasoning adopted in the two decisions and the principle of law laid down therein, in particular, the exposition of Article 21 of the Constitution.We find ourselves in entire agreement therewith.
The present cases provide an opportunity for examining several questions, such as what is noise?What are its adverse effects? Whether noise pollution runs in conflict with the fundamental rights of the people? And what relief can be allowed by way of directions issued in public interest?
Sources of Noise Pollution.
Noise pollution in the special context of Fireworks.
Methodology adopted in other countries for noise pollution control.
Noise Regulation Law-Japan.
Not that the Legislature and the Executive in India are completely unmindful of the menace of noise pollution.Laws have been enacted and the Rules have been framed by the Executive for carrying on the purposes of the legislation. The real issue is with the implementation of the laws.What is needed is the will to implement the laws.It would be useful to have a brief resume ofsome of the laws which are already available on the Statute Book.Treatment of the problem of noise pollution can be dealt under the Law of Crimes and Civil Law. Civil law can be divided under two heads (i) The Law of Torts (ii) The General Civil Law. The cases regarding noise have not come before the law courts in large quantity. The reason behind this is that many people in India did not consider noise as a sort of pollution and they are not very much conscious about the evil consequences of noise pollution. The level of noise pollution is relative and depends upon a person and a particular place. The law will not take care of a super sensitive person but the standard is of an average and rational human being in the society.
It is hereby directed as under:-
1.On a comparison of the two systems, i.e. the present system of evaluating firecrackers on the basis of noise levels, and the other where the firecrackers shall be evaluated on the basis of chemical composition, we feel that the latter method is more practical and workable in Indian circumstances.It shall be followed unless and until replaced by a better system.
2.The Department of Explosives (DOE) shall undertake necessary research activity for the purpose and come out with the chemical formulae for each type or category or class of firecrackers. The DOE shall specify the proportion/composition as well as the maximum permissible weight of every chemical used in manufacturing firecrackers.
3.The Department of Explosives may divide the firecrackers into two categories- (i) Sound emitting firecrackers, and (ii) Colour/light emitting firecrackers.
4.There shall be a complete ban on bursting sound emitting firecrackers between 10 pm and 6 am.It is not necessary to impose restrictions as to time on bursting of colour/light emitting firecrackers.
5.Every manufacturer shall on the box of each firecracker mention details of its chemical contents and that it satisfies the requirement as laid down by DOE. In case of a failure on the part of the manufacturer to mention the details or in cases where the contents of the box do not match the chemical formulae as stated on the box, the manufacturer may be held liable.
6.Firecrackers for the purpose of export may be manufactured bearing higher noise levels subject to the following conditions: (i) The manufacturer should be permitted to do so only when he has an export order with him and not otherwise;(ii) The noise levels for these firecrackers should conform to the noise standards prescribed in the country to which they are intended to be exported as per the export order; (iii) These firecrackers should have a different colour packing, from those intended to be sold in India; (iv) They must carry a declaration printed thereon something like ‘not for sale in India’ or ‘only for export to country AB’ and so on.
1.The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being usedshall not exceed 10 dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 dB(A) whichever is lower.
2.No one shall beat a drum or tom-tom or blow a trumpet or beat or sound any instrument or use any sound amplifier at night (between 10. 00 p.m. and 6.a.m.) except in public emergencies.
3.The peripheral noise level of privately owned sound system shall not exceed by more than 5 dB(A) than the ambient air quality standard specified for the area in which it is used, at the boundary of the private place.
No horn should be allowed to be used at night (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) in residential area except in exceptional circumstances.
1.There is a need for creating general awareness towards the hazardous effects of noise pollution. Suitable chapters may be added in the text-books which teach civic sense to the children and youth at the initial/early level of education.Special talks and lectures be organised in the schools to highlight the menace of noise pollution and the role of the children and younger generation in preventing it. Police and civil administration should be trained to understand the various methods to curb the problem and also the laws on the subject.
2.The State must play an activerole in this process.
Resident Welfare Associations, service Clubs and Societies engaged in preventing noise pollution as a part of their projects need to be encouraged and actively involved by the local administration.
3.Special public awareness campaigns in anticipation of festivals, events and ceremonial occasions whereat firecrackers are likely to be used, need to be carried out.
The abovesaid guidelines are issued in exercise of power conferred on this Court under Articles 141 and 142 of the Constitution of India.These would remain in force until modified by this Court or superseded by an appropriate legislation.
1.The States shall make provision for seizure and confiscation of loudspeakers, amplifiers and such other equipments as are found to be creating noise beyond the permissible limits.
2.Rule 3 of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control)
Rules, 2000 makes provision for specifying ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for different areas/zones, categorization of the areas for the purpose of implementation of noise standards, authorizing the authorities for enforcement and achievement of laid down standards. The Central Government/State Governments shall take steps for laying down such standards and notifying the authorities where it has not already been done.
Though, the matters are closed consistently with the directions as above issued in public interest, there will be liberty of seeking further directions as and when required and in particular in the event of any difficulty arising in implementing the directions.
The CWP, CA and all pending IAs be treated as disposed of.
Before parting, we would like to place on record our deep appreciation of valuable assistance rendered by Shri Jitendra Sharma, Senior Advocate assisted by Shri Sandeep Narain, Advocate (and earlier by late Shri Pankaj Kalra, Advocate)
who highlighted several
relevant aspects of the issues before us and also helped in formulating
the guidelines issued as above.