Landmark Judgment on Noise Polution under Art- 21 Constitution of India

Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 grants authority to government to control the noise pollution levels at public places. District Magistrate, Police Commissioner and Deputy Superintendent of Police are the implementing authority under the Noise Rules, 2000. But it was found that in blatant disregards to the regulation noise pollution is increasing in the name of religion and festivals.Social Miscreants are using equipment’s like to DJ Dolby and large sound speakers loaded on trucks to increase the sound volumes.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice of India RC Lahoti and Justice Ashok Bhan in its judgment of Forum, Prevention of Envn. & Sound Pollution..Appellant Versus Union of India & Anr.. Respondents issued directions to Central Govt and States to ban the use of loudspeakers between 10 pm to 6 am in public places and private residences .The supreme court also restricted the decibel level of megaphones or public address systems not exceed 10 dB (A) above the ambient noise standards for the area, or 75 dB (A), whichever is lower. Supreme court in its inherent jurisdiction under Articles 141 and 142 of the Indian Constitution have issued the landmark judgment, which is now authority on the subject matter.
The Honble Supreme Court after considering submissions of all the parties and the judgments cited inits judgment observed as follows and issued following directions;
How to check/control noise pollution The need for checking noise pollution as highlighted by the petitioners and several intervenors deserves appreciation.
Need for specific legislation to control and prevent noise pollution still needs some emphasis. Undoubtedly, some laws have been enacted. Yet, compared with the legislation in developed countries India is still lagging behind in enacting adequate and scientific legislation’s. We need to have one simple but specific and detailed legislation dealing with several aspects referable to noise pollution and providing measures of control therefor.
There is an equal need of developing mechanism and infrastructure for enforcement of the prevalent laws. Those who are entrusted with the task of enforcing laws directed towards controlling noise pollution, must be so trained as to acquire expertise in the matter of fighting against noise pollution by taking preventing and deterrent measures both. They need to be equipped with the requisite equipments such as audio meters as would help them in detecting the level of noise pollution more so when it crosses the permissible limits and the source thereof.
Above all, there is need for creating general awareness towards the hazardous effects of noise pollution. Particularly, in our country the people generally lack consciousness of the ill effects which noise pollution creates and how the society including they themselves stand to benefit by preventing generation and emission of noise pollution. The target area should be educational institutions and more particularly schools. The young children of impressionable age should be motivated to desist from playing with firecrackers, use of high sound producing equipments and instruments on festivals, religious and social functions, family get- togethers and celebrations etc. which cause noise pollution. Suitable chapters can be added into text-books which teach civic sense to the children and teach them how to be good and responsible citizen which would include learning by heart of various fundamental duties and that would obviously include learning not to create noise pollution and to prevent if generated by others. Holding of special talks and lectures can be organized in the schools to highlight the menace of noise pollution and the role of the children in preventing it. For these purposes the State must play its role by the support and cooperation of non-government organizations (NGOs) can also be enlisted.
Similar awareness needs to be created in police and civil administration by means of carrying out a special drive to make them understand the various measures to curb the problems and the laws on the subject. Resident Welfare Associations (RAWs), service clubs (such as Rotary International and Lions International) and societies engaged in preventing noise pollution as part of their projects need to be encouraged and actively involved by the local administration. Festival and ceremonies wherein the fireworks and crackers are customarily burst can be accompanied by earmarking a place and time wherein and when all the people can come together and witness or view a show of fireworks dispensing with the need of crackers being burst in the residential areas and that too which is done without any regard to timings. The manufacturers can be encouraged to make such fireworks as would display more the colours rather than make noise.
Not only the use of loudspeakers and playing of hi-fi amplifier systems has to be regulated even the playing of high sound instruments like drums, tom-toms, trumpets, bugles and the like which create noise beyond tolerable limits need to be regulated. The law enforcing agencies must be equipped with necessary instruments and facilities out of which sound level meters conforming to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) code are a bare necessity.
Preventive measures need to be directed more effectively at the source. To illustrate, the horns which if fitted with the automobiles would create hawking sound beyond permissible limits, should not be allowed to be manufactured or sold in the market as once they are available they are likely to be used.
Loudspeakers and amplifiers or other equipments or gadgets which produce offending noise once detected as violating the law, should be liable to be seized and confiscated by making provision in the law in that behalf.
Prohibiting the sale of such firecrackers which create noise pollution by producing noise beyond permissible limits is practically unmanageable. A better option certainly is to prescribe the chemical contents and composition for each type of firecrackers to effectively curb noise pollution. The Chief Controller of Explosives has also been agreeable to take steps in this regard but has pointed out difficulties attributable to shortage of personnel and non- availability of lab facilities and requisite equipments for this purpose.
We hasten to add that during the course of the proceedings the parties have been generally agreeable to solicit directions on the lines as indicated hereinabove. There should be no difficulty in issuing directions and ensuring compliance to the extent as indicated hereinabove. Wherever there are difficulties they have to be sorted out in the larger public interest.
DIRECTIONS It is hereby directed as under:-
I. Firecrackers
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.
II. Loudspeakers
1. The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used shall 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.
III. Vehicular Noise 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.
IV. Awareness
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 active role 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.
V Generally
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.

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