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In Re: Noise Pollution Restricting use of loudspeakers

Type of court
National - higher court
Jul 18, 2005
Court name
Supreme Court of India
Seat of court
New Delhi
Reference number
(2005) INSC 356
Environment gen.
Noise standards Noise emission Constitutional law Noise pollution
This case raised certain issues relating to noise pollution vis-a-vis the right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. The petition complained of noise created by the use of loudspeakers being used in religious performances, social occasions or festivals and by political parties and noise created by firecrackers in busy commercial localities. The principal prayer of the petitioner 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. The Government of India had previously passed an amendment to the relevant laws empowering the State Government to permit use of loudspeaker during night hours (between 10 pm and 12 pm mid-night) on or during the cultural or religious occasions for a limited period. The Union of India had pointed out several practical difficulties in completely regulating and where necessary, eliminating noise pollution. The Supreme Court addressed the following questions: What is noise? What are its adverse effects? Does noise pollution run in conflict with the fundamental rights of the people? What relief can be allowed by way of directions issued in public interest? In order to reach a decision, the court examined sources of noise pollution, noise pollution in the special context of fireworks, the methodology adopted in other countries for noise pollution control, judicial opinions in India and the difficulty in implementation of noise pollution control methodology in India. The court stressed that in the modern days noise had become one of the major pollutants and it had serious effects on human health. It emphasized that those who made noise often took shelter behind Article 19(1) A pleading freedom of speech and right to expression. However, it was of the view that freedom from noise pollution was a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Indian judicial opinion had been uniform in recognizing right to live in freedom from noise pollution as a fundamental right protected by Article 21 and noise pollution beyond permissible limits as an in-road on that right. The Supreme Court agreed with this view. Noise interfered with the fundamental right of the citizens to live in peace and to protect themselves against forced audience. In conclusion, the court directed, inter alia, that the Department of Explosives (DOE) had to come out with the chemical formulae for each type or category or class of firecrackers. There would be a complete ban on bursting sound emitting firecrackers between 10 pm and 6 am. Every manufacturer on the box of each firecracker had to mention details of its chemical contents. The noise level at the boundary of the public place, where loudspeaker or any other noise source was being used would not exceed 10 dB(A) above the ambient noise standards for the area. No one was allowed to use any sound amplifier at night (between 10. 00 p.m. and 6.a.m.) except in public emergencies. No vehicular horn should be allowed to be used at night (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) in residential area except in exceptional circumstances. There was a need for creating general awareness towards the hazardous effects of noise pollution. Suitable chapters could be added in the text-books which taught civic sense to the children and youth at the initial/early level of education. Special talks and lectures needed to 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.
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