IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CHIEF JUSTICE .R.C.LAHOTI & JUSTICE
In Re: Noise Pollution - Implementation of the
Laws for Restricting Use of Loudspeakers and High Volume Producing Sound
Systems versus Union of India and another
Writ Petition (C) No. 72 of 1998 (with Civil
Appeal No. 3735 of 2005) . Dated 18th July, 2005
Reported in AIR 2005 SC 3136 : 2005 AIR SCW 3525 : (2005)6 SCC 109
R.C. Lahoti, C.J.I.
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
Facts in W.P.(C) No.72/98
2. WP 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. (C) No.21851/03)
3. Leave granted.
4. 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.
5. 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
Pollution Implementation 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.
6. 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
7. 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 sought for:-
(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
(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
8. 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
(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
9. 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.
10. 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
11. 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.
12. 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?
Noise - what it is?
13. The word noise is derived from the Latin term "nausea". It has been
defined as "unwanted sound, a potential hazard to health and communication
dumped into the environment with regard to the adverse effect it may have on
14. Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Sound which pleases the listeners is
music and that which causes pain and annoyance is noise. At times, what is
music for some can be noise for others .
15. Section 2(a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,
includes noise in the definition of 'air pollutant'.
16. Section 2(a) - "air pollutant" means any solid, liquid or gaseous
substance including noise present in the atmosphere in such concentration as
may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or
plants or property or environment.
17. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica : "In acoustics noise is defined as
any undesired sound."
18. According to Chambers 20th Century Dictionary , noise means Sound
especially of loud, harsh or confused kind; a sound of any kind; an over loud
or disturbing sound; frequent or public talk.
19. In Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, the definition of noise has undergone
a change. Noise pollution stands carved out as a phrase separately from noise.
The two are defined as under :
"Noise - a sound; a harsh disagreeable sound, or such sound; a din. pollution
- an excessive or annoying degree of noise in a particular area, e.g. from
traffic or aeroplane engines."
20. "Pollution" is a noun derived from the verb "pollute". Section 2(c) of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 defines "environmental pollution" to mean
the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant. Section 2 (b)
of the said Act defines "environmental pollutant" to mean any solid, liquid or
gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tends to be
injurious to environment.
21. Thus, the disturbance produced in our environment by the undesirable sound
of various kinds is called " noise pollution".
Noise as nuisance and health hazard
22. Noise is more than just a nuisance. It constitutes a real and present
danger to people's health. Day and night, at home, at work, and at play, noise
can produce serious physical and psychological stress. Noone is immune to this
stress. Though we seem to adjust to noise by ignoring it, the ear, in fact,
never closes and the body still responds-sometimes with extreme tension, as to
a strange sound in the night.
23. Noise is a type of atmospheric pollution. It is a shadowy public enemy
whose growing menace has increased in the modern age of industrialization and
technological advancement. Although a soft rhythmic sound in the form of music
and dance stimulates brain activities, removes boredom and fatigue, but its
excessiveness may prove detrimental to living things. Researches have proved
that a loud noise during peak marketing hours creates tiredness, irritation
and impairs brain activities so as to reduce thinking and working abilities.
Noise pollution was previously confined to a few special areas like factory or
mill, but today it engulfs every nook and corner of the globe, reaching its
peak in urban areas. Industries, automobiles, rail engines, aeroplanes,
radios, loudspeakers, tape recorders, lottery ticket sellers, hawkers, pop
singers, etc., are the main ear contaminators of the city area and its market
place. The regular rattling of engines and intermittent blowing of horns
emanating from the caravan of automobiles do not allow us to have any respite
from irritant noise even in suburban zones .
24. In the modern days noise has become one of the major pollutants and it has
serious effects on human health. Effects of noise depend upon sound's pitch,
its frequency and time pattern and length of exposure. Noise has both auditory
and non-auditory effects depending upon the intensity and the duration of the
noise level. It affects sleep, hearing, communication, mental and physical
health. It may even lead to the madness of people.
25. However, noises, which are melodious, whether natural or man-made, cannot
always be considered as factors leading to pollution.
26. Noise can disturb our work, rest, sleep, and communication. It can damage
our hearing and evoke other psychological, and possibly pathological
reactions. However, because of complexity, variability and the interaction of
noise with other environmental factors, the adverse health effects of noise do
not lend themselves to a straightforward analysis .
"Deafness, like poverty, stunts and deadens its victims."- says Helen Keller.
Hearing loss can be either temporary or permanent. Noise-induced temporary
threshold shift (NITTS) is a temporary loss of hearing acuity experienced
after a relatively short exposure to excessive noise. Pre-exposure hearing is
recovered fairly rapidly after cessation of the noise. Noise induced permanent
threshold shift (NIPTS) is an irreversible loss of hearing that is caused by
prolonged noise exposure. Both kinds of loss together with presbyacusis, the
permanent hearing impairment that is attributable to the natural aging
process, can be experienced simultaneously .
27. NIPTS occurs typically at high frequencies, usually with a maximum loss at
around 4,000 Hz. It is now accepted that the risk of hearing loss is
negligible at noise exposure levels of less than 75 dB(A) Leq (8-hr). Based on
national judgments concerning acceptable risk, many countries have adopted
industrial noise exposure limits of 85 dB(A) +5 dB(A) in their regulations and
recommended practices . [N.B.- Hz. is abbreviation of Hertz which is the unit
of frequency, equal to one cycle per second. Hertz (Hz) is the name, by
international agreement, for the number of repetitions of similar pressure
variations per second of time; this unit of frequency was previously called
"cycles per second" (cps or c/s)].
28. Interference with Communication The interference of noise with speech
communication is a process in which one of two simultaneous sounds renders the
other inaudible. An important aspect of communication interference in
occupational situations is that the failure of workers to hear warning signals
or shouts may lead to injury. In offices, schools and homes, speech
interference is a major source of annoyance .
Disturbance of sleep.
29. Noise intrusion can cause difficulty in falling asleep and can awaken
people who are asleep .
30. Noise annoyance may be defined as a feeling of displeasure evoked by
noise. The annoyance inducing capacity of a noise depends upon many of its
physical characteristics and variations of these with time. However, annoyance
reactions are sensitive to many non-acoustic factors of a social,
psychological, or economic nature and there are considerable differences in
individual reactions to the same noise .
31. Effect on performance Noise can change the state of alertness of an
individual and may increase or decrease efficiency. Performance of tasks
involving motor or monotonous activities is not always degraded by noise. At
the other extreme, mental activities involving vigilance, information
gathering and analytical processes appear to be particularly sensitive to
32. It has been determined that noise has an explicit effect on the blood
vessels, especially the smaller ones known as pre-capillaries. Overall, noise
makes these blood vessels narrower. Noise causes the peripheral blood vessels
in the toes, fingers, skin and abdominal organs to constrict, thereby
decreasing the amount of blood normally supplied to these areas .
33. Possible clinical manifestations of stress concomitant with noise are : (i)
galvanic skin response, (ii) increased activity related to ulcer formation,
(iii) changes in intestinal motility, (iv) changes in skeletal muscle tension,
(v) subjective response irritability perception of loudness, (vi) increased
sugar, cholesterol & adrenaline, (vii) changes in heart rate, (viii) increased
blood pressure, (ix) increased adrenal hormones, (x) vasoconstriction. Not
only might there be harmful consequences to health during the state of
alertness, but research also suggests effects may occur when the body is
unaware or asleep. (Source; NOISE EFFECTS HANDBOOK, A Desk Reference to Health
and Welfare Effects of Noise By Office of the Scientific Assistant, Office of
Noise Abatement and Control, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October
1979, Revised July 1981)
34. The investigations have revealed that the blood vessels which feed the
brain, dilate in the presence of noise. This is the reason why headaches
result from listening to persistent high noise .
35. Field studies have also been conducted on various other groups such as
people living near airports, and school children exposed to traffic noise,
showing that there may be some risk for these people. In addition, laboratory
studies on animals and humans have demonstrated a relationship between noise
and high blood pressure. Other studies have shown that noise can induce heart
36. Prolonged chronic noise can also produce stomach ulcers as it may reduce
the flow of gastric juice and change its acidity.
With what other stress effects can noise be associated?
37. Stress can be manifested in any number of ways, including headaches,
irritability, insomnia, digestive disorders, and psychological disorders.
Workers who are exposed to excessive noise frequently complain that noise just
makes them tired.
38. Quite a few field studies have been done on workers in Europe, examining
the relationship between noise and illness. In these studies, noise has been
related to the following:
General morbidity (illness); Neuropsychological disturbances - Headaches,
Fatigue, Insomnia, Irritability, Neuroticism; Cardiovascular system
disturbances - Hypertension, Hypotension, cardiac disease; Digestive disorders
- Ulcers, Colitis; Endocrine and biochemical disorders;
Noise and the unborn.
39. There is ample evidence that environment has a role in shaping the
physique, behavior and function of animals, including men, from conception and
not merely from birth. The fetus is capable of perceiving sounds and
responding to them by motor activity and cardiac rate change .
Special Effects on unborn, children and human beings generally
40. The fetus is not fully protected from noise. Noise may threaten fetal
development. Noise has been linked to low birth weights. Levels of noise which
do not interfere with the perception of speech by adults may interfere
significantly with the perception of speech by children as well as with the
acquisition of speech, language, and language-related skills. Because they are
just learning, children have more difficulty in understanding language in the
presence of noise than adults do. Reading ability also may be seriously
impaired by noise. Apart from children, the noise pollution causes several
adverse effects on human beings generally. Some of these are: (i) hearing
loss, (ii) nonauditory physiological response such as stress, arousal
response, cardiovascular effects etc.,(iii) communication interference, (iv)
performance interference, and (v) sleep disturbance and so on.
Sources of Noise Pollution.
41. Noise pollution like other pollutants is also a by-product of
industrialization, urbanization and modern civilization.
42. Broadly speaking, the noise pollution has two sources, i.e. industrial and
non-industrial. The industrial source includes the noise from various
industries and big machines working at a very high speed and high noise
intensity. Non-industrial source of noise includes the noise created by
transport/vehicular traffic and the neighbourhood noise generated by various
noise pollution can also be divided into the categories, namely, natural and
43. Most leading noise sources will fall into the following categories: road
traffic, aircraft, railroads, construction, industry, noise in buildings, and
1. Road traffic noise
44. Noise from the motors and exhaust systems of large trucks provides the
major portion of highway noise impact, and provides a potential noise hazard
to the driver as well. In addition, noise from the interaction of tyres with
the roadway is generated by trucks, buses, and private autos.
45. In the city, the main sources of traffic noise are the motors and exhaust
systems of autos, smaller trucks, buses, and motorcycles. This type of noise
can be augmented by narrow streets and tall buildings, which produce a
"canyon" in which traffic noise reverberates.
2. Aircraft noise
46. Nowadays, the problem of low-flying military aircraft has added a new
dimension to community annoyance, as the nation seeks to improve its
"nap-of-the-earth" warfare capabilities. In addition, the issue of aircraft
operations over national parks, wilderness areas, and other areas previously
unaffected by aircraft noise has claimed national attention over recent years.
3. Noise from railroads
47. The noise from locomotive engines, horns and whistles, and switching and
shunting operations in rail yards can impact neighbouring communities and
railroad workers. For example, rail car retarders can produce a
high-frequency, high-level screech that can reach peak levels of 120 dB at a
distance of 100 feet which translates to levels as high as 138 or 140 dB at
the railroad worker's ear.
4. Construction noise
48. The noise from construction of highways, city streets, and buildings is a
major contributor to the urban scene. Construction noise sources include
pneumatic hammers, air compressors, bulldozers, loaders, dumptrucks (and their
back-up signals), and pavement breakers.
5. Noise in industry
49. Although industrial noise is one of the less prevalent community noise
problems, neighbours of noisy manufacturing plants can be disturbed by sources
such as fans, motors, and compressors mounted on the outside of buildings.
Interior noise can also be transmitted to the community through open windows
and doors, and even through building walls. These interior noise sources have
significant impacts on industrial workers, among whom noise- induced hearing
loss is unfortunately common.
6. Noise in buildings
50. Apartment dwellers are often annoyed by noise in their homes, especially
when the building is not well designed and constructed. In this case, internal
building noise from plumbing, boilers, generators, air conditioners, and fans,
can be audible and annoying. Improperly insulated walls and ceilings can
reveal the sound of amplified music, voices, footfalls, and noisy activities
from neighbouring units. External noise from emergency vehicles, traffic,
refuse collection, and other city noises can be a problem for urban residents,
especially when windows are open or insufficiently glazed.
7. Noise from consumer products
51. Certain household equipment, such as vacuum cleaners and some kitchen
appliances have been and continue to be noisemakers, although their
contribution to the daily noise dose is usually not very large.
IV Noise pollution in the special context of Fireworks.
52. Fireworks are used all over the world to celebrate special occasions. In
India, fireworks are burst on festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and on special
occasions like social gatherings, marriages, Independence day, Republic day,
New year day, etc. In other countries of the world, fireworks are generally
burst either on the New Year day or on the birthday of their respective
countries. However, bursting of firecrackers is a health hazard since it is
responsible for both air pollution and noise pollution .
53. The use of Fireworks has led to air pollution in the form of noise and
smoke. Their excessive use has started to be a public hazard and violation of
their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India.
54. It has been held in the case of "Om Birangana Religious Society v. State,
100 CWN 617" that the "Freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India includes, by necessary
implication, freedom not to listen and/or to remain silent. A citizen has a
right to leisure, right to sleep, right not to hear and right to remain
silent. He also has the right to read and speak with others". Because of the
tremendous sound and noise, the citizens cannot exercise all these fundamental
55. It has been seen that firecrackers noise is an impulsive noise and is
hazardous. Bursting of a firecracker near the ear can lead sometimes to
non-recoverable hearing loss.
56. Diwali is the most important festival of India. The bursting of
firecrackers during this period is a wide spread practice. The unpredictable,
intermittent and impulsive noise produced by bursting of crackers all around,
turns the festival of lights into cacophony of noise. People are unable to
even sleep due to this excessive noise pollution. Several people are injured
due to the noise produced by firecrackers every year.
57. Firecrackers not only increase the ambient noise level but also contribute
significantly in increasing the air pollution by means of toxic gases and
particles due to their blast wave resulting from a rapid release of energy.
58. In order to assess the situation of noise pollution caused by Firecrackers
at the time of Diwali the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been
conducting ambient noise level monitoring during Diwali festival regularly at
various locations in Delhi since 1993, to find increased ambient noise level
caused by intensive burning of crackers. As in the past, the noise and air
quality monitoring have been carried out in the years 1999, 2000, 2001, and
2002. The noise monitoring locations have been selected to cover almost all
areas of Delhi .
59. An analysis of the reports prepared in the years 1999, 2000, 2001, and
2002 reveals that the ambient noise level on Diwali day exceeded the limit at
almost all the places during these years. The noise level was higher during
Diwali-2000 as compared to the values recorded during Diwali festival in the
years 1999, 2001, and 2002 .
60. The percentage of violation in L.eq. noise level varied from 02 to 49% in
the year 2002, 12 to 55% in the year 2001, 11 to 58% in the year 2000 and 22
to 47% in the year 1999 with respect to the day time standards at all the
areas . [N.B. Equivalent Continuous Sound Pressure Level, Leq is the level of
that steady sound which over the same interval of time, contains the same
total energy (or dose) as the fluctuating sound. Equivalent continuous sound
level has gained widespread acceptance as a scale for the measurement of
long-term noise exposure.]
61. The ambient noise level conducted during the years 1999 to 2002 on Diwali
festival, exceeded the limit at all places in every year and the percentage of
violation varies from 2% to 58% .
62. Thus, the study does reveal that the noise levels that have been measured
on all these occasions have been more than the prescribed norms. This is a
point of worry as it has been discussed that noise pollution does tend to have
adverse effects on a person. Thus immediate steps in this direction need to be
63. The problem of noise pollution due to firecrackers is not only limited to
India. Similar problems are being experienced in other countries as well. In
fact in United Kingdom, in Nottingham the "Be Safe Not Sorry" campaign was
launched after the post was inundated with letters from readers to the
newspaper saying they were fed up with the noise, nuisance and the distress
that fireworks cause.
V Methodology adopted in other countries for noise pollution control.
64. Different countries of the World have enacted different legislations to
control the noise pollution. For Example, in England there is a Noise Abetment
Act, 1960 Section 2 of this Act provides that loudspeakers should not be
operated between the hours of 9:00 in the evening and 8:00 in the following
morning for any purpose and at any other time for purpose of advertisement and
entertainment, trade or business. Control on Pollution Act of 1974, contains
provisions for controlling noise pollution and it provides noise to be
actionable must amount to nuisance in the ordinary legal sense. Section 62 of
the English Control of Pollution Act, 1974, operates as perfect control for
'Street Noise'. This provision has been defined as a highway and any other
road, footway or square or court which is for the time being open to public.
In Japan there is Anti Pollution Basic Law, which helps to control the
pollution including noise pollution.
65. A few of the notable legislations may be mentioned illustratively.
Noise Act 1996- U.K.
66. This Act makes provision about noise emitted from dwellings at night;
about the forfeiture and confiscation of equipment used to make noise
unlawfully; and for connected purposes. The kind of complaint referred to is
one made by any individual present in a dwelling during night hours that
excessive noise is being emitted from another dwelling. "Night hours" means
the period beginning with 11p.m. and ending with 7 a.m. The Act provides for
the service of a notice on the offender by the prescribed officer if he thinks
that the noise being emitted is more than the permissible limits.
67. In cases where the noise level does not come down in spite of the notice
being served, the officer can seize such equipments which in his opinion are
the source of such noise.
Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993
68. An Act to make provision for noise in a street to be a statutory nuisance;
to make provision with respect to the operation of loudspeakers in a street;
to make provision with respect to audible intruder alarms; to make provision
for expenses incurred by local authorities in abating, or preventing the
recurrence of, a statutory nuisance to be a charge on the premises to which
they relate; and for connected purposes.
69. The US Noise Pollution and Abatement Act, 1970 is an important legislation
for regulating control and abatement of noise. Under this Law the environment
protection agency, acting through the office of Noise Abatement and Control,
holds public meetings in selected cities to compile information on noise
The Public Health And Welfare:- Chapter 65- Noise Control (US)
70. The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to
promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes
their health or welfare. To that end, it is the purpose of this chapter to
establish a means for effective coordination of Federal research and
activities in noise control, to authorize the establishment of Federal noise
emission standards for products distributed in commerce, and to provide
information to the public respecting the noise emission and noise reduction
characteristics of such products.
The Act further provides for -
1. Identification of major noise sources 2. Noise emission standards for
products distributed in commerce 3. Labeling 4. Quiet communities, research,
and public information 5. Development of low-noise-emission products 6. Motor
carrier noise emission standards
Noise Regulation Law-Japan.
71. The purpose of this Law is to preserve living environment and contribute
to protection of the people's health by regulating noise generated by the
operation of factories and other types of work sites as well as construction
work affecting a considerable area, and by setting maximum permissible levels
of motor vehicle noise.
72. The prefectural governor shall designate concentrated residential areas,
school and hospital zones, and other such areas in which it is deemed
necessary to protect the living environment of the residents from noise, as
areas subject to the regulation of noise produced by specified factories and
specified construction work.
73. The prefectural governor, while designating the areas pursuant to
Paragraph 1 of the preceding Article, shall establish regulatory standards for
specified hours and zones of said areas within the scope of the standards set
forth by the Director General of the Environment Agency according to the
necessary degree of noise control in regard to specified factories for
specified hours and zones.
74. Persons installing specific facilities are liable to report the same to
the prefectural governor within 30 days.
75. The governor has the powers to order change in the outlay of the factory
when they do not confer to the noise regulations.
76. Any party who plans to undertake construction projects which involve
specified construction work in designated areas, shall file a report with the
prefectural governor no later than seven (7) days prior to the beginning of
77. The prefectural governor shall be responsible for the monitoring of noise
levels in designated areas.
78. For the regulation on noise caused by announcement through the use of
loudspeakers and noise emitted during the night time operation of bars and
restaurants, local government shall take measures necessary to protect the
living environment, including restrictions on operating hours, in accordance
with the local physical and social conditions.
79. The regulations also prescribe the permissible noise levels for the
various areas, as well as the time periods between which noise- emitting
machines can be used.
80. Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention and Control of
Pollution From Environmental Noise (adopted on October 29, 1996)
81. This Law is enacted for the purpose of preventing and controlling
environmental noise pollution, protecting and improving the living
environment, ensuring human health and promoting economic and social
82. For purposes of this Law, "environmental noise" means the sound that is
emitted in the course of industrial production, construction, transportation
and social activities and that impairs the living environment of the
83. The competent administrative department for environmental protection under
the State Council shall, in accordance with the national standards for
acoustic environmental quality and the State's economic and technological
conditions, fix national limits for environmental noise emission.
84. Every project under construction, renovation or expansion must conform to
the regulations of the State governing environmental protection.
85. The industrial noise emitted to the living environment of the
neighbourhood within an urban area shall be kept within the limits set by the
State on emission of environmental noise within the boundary of an industrial
86. The construction noise emitted to the living environment of the
neighbourhood within an urban area shall be kept within the limits set by the
State on the emission of environmental noise within the boundary of a
87. It is forbidden to manufacture, sell or import automobiles that emit noise
beyond the limits set on noise level.
88. All units and individuals are forbidden to use high-pitch loudspeakers in
urban areas where noise-sensitive structures are concentrated.
89. Any unit or individual suffering from the hazards of environmental noise
pollution shall have the right to demand the polluter to eliminate the
hazards; if a loss has been caused, it shall be compensated according to law.
"Noise emission" means emission of noise from the source to the living
environment of the neighbourhood. "Noise-sensitive structures" mean structures
that require a quiet environment such as hospitals, schools, government
offices, research institutions and residential buildings.
"Areas where noise-sensitive structures are concentrated" mean such areas as
medical treatment areas, cultural, education and research districts and areas
where government offices or residential buildings constitute the main
"At night" means the period from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
90. In New South Wales (NSW) no single government authority has the
responsibility or capacity to be able to minimise all forms of noise
pollution. The State is excluded from control of noise in a number of areas by
commonwealth legislation. These include aircraft noise, where noise limits
could affect trade, and the setting standards for noise emissions from new
vehicles. In areas where the State does have powers to control noise the
Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has an overall responsibility for
environmental noise (as distinct from occupational noise), under the Noise
Control Act 1975. The Act deals with the prevention, minimisation and
abatement of noise and vibration and empowers the EPA, the Waterways
Authority, local government and the police for these purposes.
91. The EPA controls noise from scheduled premises those required by the Noise
Control Act to have a licence and noise associated with rail traffic and the
construction or upgrading of freeways and toll roads. The Police and local
council are generally responsible for neighbourhood noise issues and have
authority to issue noise abatement directions to control noise from premises
and for noise from burglar alarms. Local council have an essential role in
minimising the effects of excessive noise, particularly in their local
residential areas, from smaller factories, non-scheduled premises and public
places. The Waterways Authority has specific responsibilities in relation to
noise from vessels in navigable waters.
92. Under the provisions of the Noise Control Act 1975 in NSW the railway
system is classified as scheduled premises and as such the EPA has a
regulatory role, and seeks to achieve noise targets for rail operations
throughout the State to minimise the impact on local residents.
93. The EPA issues licences for the management of scheduled premises. When
issuing a licence the EPA sets initial noise limits that are achievable with
the operation of plant and equipment currently installed, operated and
maintained effectively. To achieve further improvements in noise exposure to
residents, negotiations with the licensed premises are carried out and can be
incorporated in the licence as Pollution Reduction Programs (PRPs). The EPA is
currently working with industry to reduce noise levels from major sources.
94. The Noise Control (Miscellaneous Articles) Regulation 1995 was introduced
to cover community noise issues not covered by previous legislation. It
includes limitations on burglar alarms for both residential and commercial
premises. Changes have been made to the night-time control of common domestic
noise sources such as power tools, air conditioners, amplified music and lawn
mowers. Under the new regulation only one warning to the offender is required
and the warning is valid for 28 days. If an offence is committed within this
period a fine can be issued without further warnings. The previous regulation
warning was only active for 12 hours which meant it was not very effective
with repetitious offences typical in suburban areas.
95. The Noise Control (Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Accessories)
Regulation 1995 controls the noise of individual motor vehicles. It includes a
provision to control noise from a range of accessories including horns,
alarms, refrigeration units and sound systems. It also places responsibility
to ensure compliance of repairs/modifications of vehicles on the vehicle
96. In addition to the measures introduced to reduce the source and
transmission of noise, measures can be undertaken to noise proof buildings
thereby reducing the occupant exposure to noise.
Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance
97. The Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance allows for normal activities
during regular hours; however, it does attempt to eliminate interference from
noise when most of us want to rest and relax. It also seeks to control
disturbing and unhealthy levels of noise in general. Key provisions of the
Noise Control Ordinance: (i) Provide day/night sound level limits. (ii)
Establish "quiet hours." (iii) Define sounds that constitute noise
disturbances. (iv) Establish a "nuisance provision" that prohibits certain
noises at any time. A noise disturbance, as defined by the ordinance, is any
sound that is unpleasant, annoying, or loud; abnormal for the time or
location; and prejudicial to health, comfort, property, or the conduct of
business. Under the ordinance, it is unlawful to create a noise disturbance
anywhere during "quiet hours," including multi- family buildings and
townhouses. The "nuisance provision" prohibits some noise disturbances
anywhere at any time.
98. The Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance promotes peace and quiet for
everyone by covering a wide variety of residential and business situations.
The Ordinance does not cover noise from aircraft and railroads or motor
vehicles on public roadways, as Federal and State governments supersede local
regulation. Also exempt are emergency operations by public utilities.
99. Among other provisions, the Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance
makes it illegal to: (i) Operate, or allow to be operated, a radio,
television, or other electronic sound-producing device on public or private
property if the sound exceeds 55 decibels at the receiving property line. (ii)
Create a noise disturbance during "quiet hours" in a residential zone or
multi-family structure. (iii) Operate any equipment that exceeds the receiving
property line sound level limits. (iv) Allow an animal or fowl to create a
noise disturbance at any time. (vi) Load or unload material during "quiet
hours." (vi) Create a noise disturbance across property lines during "quiet
hours" by operating power equipment mounted on a motor vehicle; for example,
refrigerated trucks or commercial vacuum cleaners. (vii) Permit construction
noise to exceed 75 decibels, with allowances for higher decibel levels under
an approved "Noise Suppression Plan." VI Statutory Laws in India
100. 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 of some 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.
The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
101. In order to curb the growing problem of noise pollution, the Government
of India has enacted the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
Prior to the enactment of these rules noise pollution was not being dealt
specifically by a particular Act.
"Whereas the increasing ambient noise levels in public places from various
sources, inter-alia, industrial activity, construction activity, generator
sets, loudspeakers, public address systems, music systems, vehicular horns and
other mechanical devices, have deleterious effects on human health and the
psychological well being of the people; it is considered necessary to regulate
and control noise producing and generating sources with the objective of
maintaining the ambient air quality standard in respect of noise;"
101. The main provisions of the noise rules are as under:
1. The State Government may categorize the areas into industrial, commercial,
residential or silence areas/zones for the purpose of implementation of noise
standards for different areas.
2. The ambient air quality standards in respect of noise for different
areas/zones has been specified for in the Schedule annexed to the Rules.
3. The State Government shall take measures for abatement of noise including
noise emanating from vehicular movements and ensure that the existing noise
levels do not exceed the ambient air quality standards specified under these
4. An area comprising not less than 100 meters around hospitals, educational
institutions and courts may be declared as silence area/zone for the purpose
of these rules.
5. A loudspeaker or a public address system shall not be used except after
obtaining written permission from the authority and the same shall not be used
at night i.e. between 10.00p.m. and 6.00 a.m.
6. A person found violating the provisions as to the maximum noise permissible
in any particular area shall be liable to be punished for it as per the
provisions of these rules and any other law in force.
Indian Penal Code
102. Noise pollution can be dealt under Sections 268, 290 and 291 of the
Indian Penal Code, as a public nuisance. Under Section 268 of this Code, it is
mentioned that 'A person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is
guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or
annoyance to the public or the people in general who dwell or occupy property
in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger
or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right.
103. A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some
convenience or advantage.'
104. Sections 290 and 291 of the Indian Penal Code deal with the punishment
for public nuisance.
Criminal Procedure Code
105. Under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 the magistrate
has the power to make conditional order requiring the person causing nuisance
to remove such nuisance.
The Factories Act, 1948.
106. The Factories Act does not contain any specific provision for noise
control. However, under the Third Schedule Sections 89 and 90 of the Act,
'noise induced hearing loss', is mentioned as a notifiable disease. Under
section 89 of the Act, any medical practitioner who detects any notifiable
disease, including noise- induced hearing loss, in a worker, has to report the
case to the Chief Inspector of Factories, along with all other relevant
information. Failure to do so is a punishable offence.
107. Similarly, under the Model Rules, limits for noise exposure for work zone
area has been prescribed.
Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and Rules framed thereunder
109. Rules 119 and 120 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, deal with
reduction of noise.
Rule 119. Horns
(1) On and after expiry of one year from the date of commencement of the
Central Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Rules, 1999, every motor vehicle including
construction equipment vehicle and agricultural tractor manufactured shall be
fitted with an electric horn or other devices conforming to the requirements
of IS: 1884?1992, specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards for use by the
driver of the vehicle and capable of giving audible and sufficient warning of
the approach or position of the vehicle: Provided that on and from 1st
January, 2003, the horn installation shall be as per AIS-014 specifications,
as may be amended from time to time, till such time as corresponding Bureau of
Indian Standards specifications are notified. (2) No motor vehicle shall be
fitted with any multi-toned horn giving a succession of different notes or
with any other sound-producing device giving an unduly harsh, shrill, loud or
Rule 120. Silencers (1) Every motor vehicle including agricultural tractor
shall be fitted with a device (hereinafter referred to as a silencer) which by
means of an expansion chamber or otherwise reduces as far as practicable, the
noise that would otherwise be made by the escape of exhaust gages from the
(2) Noise standards? Every motor vehicle shall be constructed and maintained
so as to conform to noise standards specified in Part E of the Schedule VI to
the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, when tested as per IS: 3028-1998, as
amended from time to time.
Law of Torts
110. Quietness and freedom from noise are indispensable to the full and free
enjoyment of a dwelling-house. No proprietor has an absolute right to create
noises upon his own land, because any right which the law gives is qualified
by the condition that it must not be exercised to the nuisance of his
neighbours or of the public. Noise will create an actionable nuisance only if
it materially interferes with the ordinary comfort of life, judged by
ordinary, plain and simple notions, and having regard to the locality; the
question being one of degree in each case.
111. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 Noise was
included in the definition of air pollutant in Air (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act in 1987. Thus, the provisions of the Air Act, became applicable
in respect of noise pollution, also.
112. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Although there is no specific
provision to deal with noise pollution, the Act confers powers on Government
of India to take measures to deal with various types of pollution including
113. The Explosives Act, 1884 regulates manufacture, possession, use, sale,
transport, import & export of explosives. Firecrackers are governed by this
Statute. Rule 87 of the Explosives Rule, 1983 prohibits manufacture of any
explosive at any place, except in factory or premises licensed under the
114. In India there is no separate Act that regulates the manufacture,
possession, use, sale, manufacture and transactions in firecrackers. All this
is regulated by The Explosives Act, 1884. The Noise that is produced by these
fireworks is regulated by the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and The Noise
Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
VII JUDICIAL OPINION IN INDIA
115. In Kirori Mal Bishambar Dayal v. The State AIR 1958 Punjab 11,
accused/petitioner was convicted and sentenced under Section 290 of Indian
Penal Code 1860 and was fined Rs. 50 for causing noise and emitting smoke and
vibrations by operating of heavy machinery in the residential area. The orders
of the trial court was upheld by the District Magistrate in appeal. The High
Court of Punjab & Haryana also upheld the decision of the courts below and
dismissed the revision petition. In the case of Bhuban Ram & Ors. v. Bibhuti
Bhushan Biswas AIR 1919 Calcutta 539, it was held that working of a paddy
husking machine at night causes nuisance by noise and the occupier was held
liable to be punished under Section 290 IPC. In Ivour Heyden v. State of
Andhra Pradesh 1984 Cri LJ (NOC) 16, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh excused
the act of playing radio loudly on the ground that it was a trivial act.
Careful reading of Section 95 of IPC shows that only that harm is excused
which is not expected to be complained by the person of ordinary temper and
116. In Rabin Mukherjee v. State of West Bengal AIR 1985 Cal. 222 the use of
air horns was prohibited by the court to prevent noise pollution. The Court
observed: "it is found that the atmosphere and the environment is very much
polluted from indiscriminating noise emitted from different quarters and on
research it was found that persons who are staying near the Airport, are
becoming victim of various ailments. Such persons even become victim of mental
disease. On such research it was also found that workers in various factories
even become deaf and hard of hearing. It was further found on such research
that as a result of this excessive noise pollution, people suffer from loss of
appetite, depression, mental restlessness and insomnia. People also suffer
from complain of excessive blood pressure and heart trouble. It is not
necessary to go into the question about direct effect of such noise pollution
because of indiscriminate and illegal use of such electric and air horn as it
is an admitted position that the same is injurious to health and amongst
different causes of environmental pollution, sound pollution is one which is
of grave concern."
117. In the case of People United for better Living in Calcutta v. State of
West Bengal (AIR 1993 Cal. 215) the Calcutta High Court observed: "In a
developing country there shall have to be developments, but that development
shall have to be in closest possible harmony with the environment, as
otherwise there would be development but no environment, which would result in
total devastation, though, however, may not be felt in present but at some
future point of time, but then it would be too late in the day, however, to
control and improve the environment. In fact, there should be a proper balance
between the protection of environment and the development process. The society
shall have to prosper, but not at the cost of the environment and in similar
vein, the environment shall have to be protected but not at the cost of the
development of the society and as such a balance has to be found out and
administrative actions ought to proceed accordingly."
118. In Burrabazar Fireworks Dealers Association v. Commissioner of police,
Calcutta, AIR 1998 Cal. 121 it has been held "Art. 19(1)(g) of the
Constitution of India does not guarantee the fundamental right to carry on
trade or business which creates pollution or which takes away that communities
safety, health and peace. A citizen or people cannot be made a captive
listener to hear the tremendous sounds caused by bursting out from a noisy
fireworks. It may give pleasure to one or two persons who burst it but others
have to be a captive listener whose fundamental rights guaranteed under
Article 19(10(a) and other provisions of the Constitution are taken away,
suspended and made meaningless. Under Art. 19(1)(a), read withy Art. 21 of the
constitution of India, the citizens have a right of decent environment and
they have a right to live peacefully, right to sleep at night and to have a
right to leisure which are all necessary under Art. 21 of the Constitution. "(Headnote)
119. In Appa Rao, M.S. v. Govt. of T.N. , (1995) 1 LW 319 (Mad), the Madras
High Court taking a note of the serious health hazard and disturbance to
public order and tranquility caused by the uncontrolled noise pollution
prevailing in the State, issued a writ of mandamus for directing State
Government to impose strict conditions for issue of license for the use of
amplifiers and loudspeakers and for directing Director-General, Police (Law
and Order) to impose total ban on use of horn type loudspeakers and amplifiers
and air horns of automobiles.
120. In P.A. Jacob v. the Superintendent of Police, AIR (1993) Kerala 1, it
was said "The right to speech implies, the right to silence. It implies
freedom, not to listen, and not to be forced to listen. The right comprehends
freedom to be free from what one desires to be free from. Free speech is not
to be treated as a promise to everyone with opinions and beliefs, to gather at
any place and at any time and express their views in any manner. The right is
subordinate to peace and order. A person can decline to read a publication, or
switch off a radio or a television set. But, he cannot prevent the sound from
a loudspeaker reaching him. He could be forced to hear what, he wishes not, to
hear. That will be an invasion of his right to be let alone, to hear what he
wants to hear, or not to hear, what he does not wish to hear. One may put his
mind or hearing to his own uses, but not that of another. Noone has a right to
trespass on the mind or ear of another and commit auricular or visual
aggression. A loudspeaker is mechanical device, and it has no mind or thought
process in it. Recognition of the right of speech or expression is recognition
accorded to a human faculty. A right belongs to human personality, and not to
a mechanical device. One may put his faculties to reasonable uses. But, he
cannot put his machines to any use he likes. He cannot use his machines to
injure others. Intervention with a machine, is not intervention with, or
invasion of a human faculty or right. No mechanical device can be upgraded to
a human faculty. A computer or a robot cannot be conceded the right under Art.
19 (though they may be useful to man to express his faculties). No more, a
loudspeaker. The use of a loudspeaker may be incidental to the exercise of the
right. But, its use is not a matter of right, or part of the right".
121. In Free Legal Aid Cell Shri Sugan Chand Aggarwal alias Bhagatji v. Govt.
of NCT of Delhi and others, AIR (2001) Delhi 455, it was said that "Pollution
being wrongful contamination of the environment which causes material injury
to the right of an individual, noise can well be regarded as a pollutant
because it contaminates environment, causes nuisance and affects the health of
a person and would therefore, offend Art. 21, if it exceeds a reasonable
122. The Supreme Court in Church of God (Full Gospel) in India v. K.K.R.
Majestic Colony Welfare Assn., (2000) 7 SCC 282 held that the Court may issue
directions in respect of controlling noise pollution even if such noise was a
direct result of and was connected with religious activities. It was further
"Undisputedly, no religion prescribes that prayers should be performed by
disturbing the peace of others nor does it preach that they should be through
voice amplifiers or beating of drums. In our view, in a civilized society in
the name of religion, activities which disturb old or infirm persons, students
or children having their sleep in the early hours or during daytime or other
persons carrying on other activities cannot be permitted. It should not be
forgotten that young babies in the neighbourhood are also entitled to enjoy
their natural right of sleeping in a peaceful atmosphere. A student preparing
for his examination is entitled to concentrate on his studies without their
being any unnecessary disturbance by the neighbours. Similarly, the old and
the infirm are entitled to enjoy reasonable quietness during their leisure
hours without there being any nuisance of noise pollution. Aged, sick, people
afflicted with psychic disturbances as well as children up to 6 years of age
are considered to be very sensible (sic sensitive) to noise. Their rights are
also required to be honoured.
"Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, rules for noise-pollution level
are framed which prescribe permissible limits of noise in residential,
commercial, industrial areas or silence zone. The question is whether the
appellant can be permitted to violate the said provisions and add to the noise
pollution. In our view, to claim such a right itself would be unjustifiable.
In these days, the problem of noise pollution has become more serious with the
increasing trend towards industrialisation, urbanization and modernisation and
is having many evil effects including danger to health. It may cause
interruption of sleep, affect communication, loss of efficiency, hearing loss
or deafness, high blood pressure, depression, irritability, fatigue,
gastrointestinal problems, allergy, distraction, mental stress and annoyance
etc. This also affects animals alike. The extent of damage depends upon the
duration and the intensity of noise. Sometimes it leads to serious law and
order problem. Further, in an organized society, rights are related with
duties towards others including neighbours...
...because of urbanization or industrialization the noise pollution may in
some area of a city/town might be exceeding permissible limits prescribed
under the Rules, but that would not be a ground for permitting others to
increase the same by beating of drums or by use of voice amplifiers,
loudspeakers or by such other musical instruments and, therefore, rules
prescribing reasonable restrictions including the Rules for the use of
loudspeakers and voice amplifiers framed under the Madras Town Nuisances Act,
1889 and also the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 are
required to be enforced."
124. In Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India (AIR 1990 SC 1480) the Supreme Court
reiterated the need to create separate tribunals and asserted the need to
appoint a body of experts to advice the Government on environmental issues.
125. In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (2004) 1 SCC 571 this Court has
emphasized the need for creating environmental awareness amongst students
126. We have referred to a few, not all available judgments. Suffice it to
observe that Indian Judicial opinion has been uniform in recognizing right to
live in freedom from noise pollution as a fundamental right protected by
Article 21 of the Constitution and noise pollution beyond permissible limits
as an in-road on that right. We agree with and record our approval of the view
taken and the opinion expressed by the several High Courts in the decisions
referred to hereinabove.
VIII Interim orders
127. During the course of the hearing of this case the Court had passed
several interim orders keeping in mind the importance of the issue.
128. The interim order dated 27/09/2001 deserves to be mentioned in
particular, which directed as under:
"(1) The Union Government, the Union Territories as well as all the State
Governments shall take steps to strictly comply with Notification No. G.S.R.
682(E) dated October 05, 1999 whereby the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986
framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 were amended. They shall
in particular comply with amended Rule 89 of the said Rules, which reads as
"89. Noise standards for fire- crackers
A.(i) The manufacture, sale or use of firecrackers generating noise level
exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB( C)pk at 4 meters distance from the point of
bursting shall be prohibited.
(ii) For individual fire-cracker constituting the series (joined
fire-crackers), the above mentioned limit be reduced by 5 log 10(N) dB, where
N = number of crackers joined together."
(2) The use of fireworks or fire-crackers shall not be permitted except
between 6.00 a.m. and 10.00p.m. No firework or firecracker shall be allowed
between 10.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m.
(3) Firecrackers shall not be used at any time in silence zones, as defined in
S.O. 1046(E) issued on 22.11.2000 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
In the said Notification Silence Zone has been defined as: " Silence Zone is
an area comprising not less than 100 meters around hospitals, educational
institutions, courts, religious places or any other area which is declared as
such by the competent authority."
(4) The State Education Resource Centers in all the States and the Union
Territories as well as the management/principals of schools in all the States
and Union Territories shall take appropriate steps to educate students about
the ill effects of air and noise pollution and appraise them of directions (1)
to (3) above."
129. These interim directions were also directed to be given wide publicity
both by electronic and print media. It was said that Doordarshan and other
television channels shall give publicity to these directions, at least once
every day during prime time, during the fortnight before Dussehra and Diwali.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was asked to bring these
directions to the notice of the general public through appropriate
advertisements, issued in the newspapers. The All India Radio was asked to
broadcast these directions on prime time on FM and other frequencies for
information of the general public.
130. Due to the imposition of the restrictions on the bursting of
firecrackers, several Interim Applications came to be filed before the Court.
The Court vide its interim order dated 10.9.2003 stated:-
"Through the I.A.s filed in this Court the following two suggestions deserve
Firstly, it is submitted that certain local festivals and celebrations are
accompanied customarily by bursting of firecrackers which is at times at such
hours as is not permissible under the order of this Court dated 27.9.2001.
Secondly, it is pointed out that the industry of fireworks may face serious
difficulty, even partial closure, on account of the directions made by this
131. We have grave doubts if the abovesaid considerations can come in the way
of the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution for
the citizens and people of India to live in peace and comfort, in an
atmosphere free from pollution of any kind, such as one caused by noise and
foul/poisonous gases. However still, without expressing any final opinion on
the pleas advanced, we allow the parties adversely affected the liberty to
make representation to their respective State Governments and the State
Governments may, in their turn, if satisfied of the genuineness of the
representation made, invite the attention of the Govt. of India, to the
132. We are happy to note that the initial reluctance to abide by the interim
directions made by this Court as displayed by the subsequent interlocutory
applications soon gave way to compliance. By and large the interim directions
made by the Court were observed in compliance. Police and civil administration
remained alert during Diwali Festival to see that the directions made by the
Court were complied with. Resident Welfare Associations and school children
gave a very encourageous response who voluntarily desisted from bursting
firecrackers in prohibited hours of night and also bursting such firecrackers
as produce high level noise.
133. IX Difficulty in implementation of noise pollution control methodology in
134. India has passed through the stage of being characterised as a developing
country and is ready to enter and stand in the line of developed countries.
Yet, the issue of noise pollution in India has not been taken so far with that
seriousness as it ought to have been. Firstly, as we have stated earlier,
there is a lack of will on the part of the Executive to implement the laws.
This has contributed to lack of infrastructure essential for attaining the
enforcement of laws. Secondly, there is lack of requisite awareness on the
part of the citizens. The deleterious effects of noise pollution are not well
known to the people and are not immediately perceptible. People generally
accept noise pollution as a part of life, a necessary consequence of progress
135. The problems that are being faced in controlling noise pollution are:- 1.
The Statutes and the Rules framed thereunder are not comprehensive enough so
as to deal with all the problems and issues related to noise pollution. This
impression of ours stands reaffirmed on a comparative reading of legislation
in India with these in other countries of the world to which we have referred
to briefly earlier in this judgment.
2. The authorities responsible for implementing the laws are not yet fully
identified. Those which have been designated, do not seem to be specialised in
the task of regulating noise pollution. There is dearth of necessary personnel
technically qualified to act effectively. What is needed is a combination of
technically qualified and administratively competent personnel with the
requisite desire and dedication for implementation of the laws.
3. There is lack of proper gadgets and equipments and other infrastructure
such as labs for measuring the noise levels. Due to the shortage of the
instruments needed for the purpose of measuring sound, the policemen who are
on the job usually end up measuring sound with their ears itself and not with
the use of technical instruments.
136. In the context of firecrackers in particular, several questions do arise
for which answers shall have to be found. What should be the maximum
permissible sound level for firecrackers? What should be the method of
checking whether a particular firecracker shall emit sound which shall be
within permissible limits? Which authority shall be conferred with the
responsibility for ensuring the effective implementation of these noise
levels? What should be the time limit during which the bursting of
firecrackers should be allowed? Should there be any relaxation in the hours
fixed for bursting firecrackers during festival? Should the Environment
(Protection) Rules, 1986, be amended in such a way that the firecrackers
manufactured for export in other countries are exempted from the Indian noise
137. What is the Maximum sound level that should be permissible for
138. At present the maximum permissible sound level for firecrackers as per
the noise standard is provided by Item 89, Sch. I, Table 1.5 of the
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986: "89. Noise Standard for Fire- crackers
A. (i) The manufacture, sale or use of fire- crackers generating noise level
exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145dB(C)pk at 4 meters distance from the point of
bursting shall be prohibited.
(ii) For individual firecrackers constituting the series (joined fire-
crackers), the above mentioned limit be reduced by 5 log 10 (N)dB, where N=
Number of crackers joined together."
139. The learned animus curiae had on 17th September 2001, filed certain
suggestions for issuance of directions for consideration of the Court. In it
he had suggested that the maximum noise level of firecrackers could be fixed
at 65 dB(A).
140. It is submitted that the limit of emission of noise prescribed in the
Rules is too liberal and errs on higher side. It is suggested that the
manufacture of Firecrackers or those dealing with them should ensure that only
such crackers are produced and marketed which do not emit noise of more than
141. The Government of India had not accepted the above suggestion of the
learned Amicus. The government replied to it in the following words.
"Sound level of 65 dB(A) for firecrackers is too low a level to be prescribed.
The noise levels prescribed in GSR 682 (E) dated 5TH October, 1999, have been
evolved by a technical committee and need to be complied with."
142. The Fire workers industry also submitted an application to the Union
Minister of Environment and Forest at a meeting convened in New Delhi on
15/04/2004, pleading justification for the increase proposed in the prescribed
firecrackers noise standards from 125 dB(AI) to 135 db(AI) and from 145 dB(c)p
k to 155(C)pk.
143. In an Article on Firecracker Noise, a Hazard- A review of its Standards,
by, Dr. S.P. Singhal, published in MAPAN- Journal of Metrology Society of
India, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2002; pp. 101-117, Dr. Singhal has stated:
"UK and many other European Economic Commission (EEC) countries have adopted
an exposure limit of 140dB(lin) peak sound pressure level for impulsive or
cracker noise for a maximum exposure of 100 impulses per day.
144. European Standardization Committee CEN/TC/212 WG3 is also working to
set-up standards on fireworks. Some of the countries have desired the limit to
be set at 112dB(AI) and, several others have wanted it to be set at125dB(AI)
or even at 126-127 dB(AI) at the testing distance, with the peak sound
pressure level to be 20dB higher than these limits. It has fixed a noise level
of 120dB(AI) measured at the testing distance on an ad hoc basis for category
145. Canada has adopted the damage risk criterion of 140dBA peak sound
pressure level at a distance of 5m from the point of explosion of the cracker.
It is applicable in all categories of fireworks unless otherwise specified."
146. Keeping all these submissions in mind it does seem that the present noise
standards as prescribed in India by the Government of India, are correct and
do not need to be altered at the moment. However, if the Government is of the
opinion that this sound level needs to be increased or reduced at a later date
it is free to do so.
147. Should a firecracker be tested on the basis of sound level or on the
basis of chemical compositions so as to check, does the firecracker correspond
with the prescribed rules?
148. For an effective implementation of noise pollution prevention programme,
it is essential that such a method be devised whose enforcement shall not be
problematic. A rule should be so designed, that it is possible for all
concerned to be able to implement it, and thus it is not violated by anyone
due to some kind of supervening impossibility. Almost all the parties
concerned have expressed a discontent about the present system of enforcement
of noise level pertaining to firecrackers. Lack of infrastructure on account
of noise measuring devices, high cost of such devices, low noise levels
prescribed, expensive rates for getting samples tested, long time taken by the
testing laboratories are a few of the difficulties that have been cited in the
enforcement of the noise standards.
149. The Department of Explosives has filed two affidavits before the Court,
the first on 1.4.2003 and the second on 16.2.2004, besides a joint affidavit
which was filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest on behalf of the
Union of India on 29.8.2003.
150. In the aforesaid Affidavits, the stand taken by the Department of
Explosives before the Court is:
(i) that "the firecrackers noise standard prescribed under the Environment
(Protection) Rules, 1986 requires costly instruments, wide infrastructure and
special expertise in the fields of acoustic science." (para-8 of Affidavit
(ii) that "the Department is not prepared in terms of manpower equipments and
infrastructure for implementation of the standard which is based on
measurement of noise level" (para-9 of Affidavit dated 1.4.2003)
(iii) that "the Department of Explosives is of the opinion that the noise
level of firecrackers can be efficiently controlled by specifying the size,
shape, composition and quantity of chemicals in the fireworks, which are the
prime factors that determine the noise level which entails a lot of R & D
work. The maximum permissible size of firecrackers and the maximum possible
weight of the chemicals for each variety would be mentioned in the list of
authorized explosives appended to the Explosives Rules consequent upon
amendment of the Explosives Rules."(para-15 of Affidavit dated 1.4.2003.)
(iv) that "the department is already publishing one authorized List of
Explosives, which is updated periodically as and when new items of explosives
are approved by the Department. The specification for the approved varieties
are prescribed in the said Authorised List, in terms of permissible size,
permissible composition of chemicals, mass of charge and other such physical
and chemical properties. The items which are not listed in the authorized list
cannot be manufactured, stored, transported or sold as per various provisions
of the Explosives Rules. Anybody proposing to manufacture a new variety of
fireworks shall apply to the Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur along with
detailed drawings, samples and prescribed fee for testing and approval. Noise
regulations for firecrackers can be implemented effectively through the
Authorised List in four phases:
(i) The permissible sound level of 125 dB(AI) notified under the Rules is
taken as the guideline for purpose of implementation by the Department of
(ii) To achieve this, the Department can experiment with various sizes,
chemicals and compositions in order to devise the optimal set of factors for
each variety, to result in the desired noise level.
(iii) This set of factors or parameters for each variety of firecrackers will
then be notified under the Authorized List of Explosives under the Explosives
(iv) Any violation from the authorized List exceeding the permitted size,
permitted chemical content and chemical composition will attract legal
action."( para-16 of affidavit dated 1.4.2003).
151. In the Affidavit filed on 16.2.2004, the Chief Controller of Explosives
stated:- (1) That since the role of the Department of Explosives is mainly
administration and enforcement of the Explosives Rules 1983 and the status of
the Department is statutory in nature hence the Department of Explosives had
already taken up the matter and advised the fireworks manufacturers of
developing and producing environment friendly fireworks besides advocating to
promote, sale and use of only fireworks/crackers meeting the noise standards
prescribed under Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 and amendments thereof.
(2) That it is impractical for Government of India to fix norms regarding
chemical composition and the size of the firecrackers. It is the duty and
responsibility of the manufacturer to control size and composition of
firecrackers to comply with the noise limits prescribed under the Environment
(Protection) Rules, 1986.
(3) That it is impractical owing to the shortage of infrastructure available
with the Department of Explosives. The licensing for the manufacture of
firecrackers shall be as per the Explosives Act, 1884. The Power of the
District Magistrate for issuing licenses is to be retained as per the Rules.
(4) That the matter is now open and the manufacturers are at liberty to
manufacture, develop, promote and sell only those fireworks, which comply with
the noise limits prescribed under the Environment (Protection) Rules 1986 and
Explosive Rules, 1983.
(5) That the Department of Explosives had already made mandatory for the
manufacturers of fireworks to mention the noise levels in decibel units on
firecrackers. The manufacturers are also required to declare on the packing of
the boxes that the noise levels conform to the standards prescribed under the
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986. The Department had already included the
prescribed noise limits for firecrackers as additional conditions of licenses
issued under the Explosives Rules 1983. The authorities empowered to enforce
the Explosives Rules 1983 have been clearly defined under the said Rules.
Desirability of fixing chemical composition for the firecrackers
152. The learned Amicus Curiae has suggested that the Government of India
should fix the permissible chemical compositions for the firecrackers. He
submitted -- "To control the noise levels from firecrackers, it was felt that
apart from firecrackers carrying on its label, the extent of its noise level
emission, it may be appropriate if the Government was to fix norms regarding
chemical composition and the size of firecrackers so as to confirm to the
notified noise emission norms."
153. In UK as well, the method of determining the noise level of a
firecracker, is by fixing its chemical contents. The British Standard
Institute has developed the British Standard Fireworks, Part 2. Specification
for Fireworks (BS 7114: Part 2) of 1988, which prescribes the maximum
permissible quantity of chemicals in a particular firework. The Standards
prescribe the various specifications with which the firework has to comply for
it to be manufactured or used in UK.
154. During the course of hearing, submissions in extenso were made on the
comparative merits and demerits of the two systems namely (i) measuring the
noise level of firecrackers in decibels and thereby securing the
implementation of rules in this regard, and (ii) securing the implementation
of the rules by restricting and prescribing the size of chemical content,
chemical composition etc. of firecrackers. A tabulated statement of such
comparison has been placed on the record by the Tamil Nadu Fireworks and
Amorces Manufacturers Association.
155. Briefly stated, it is pointed out that if the firecrackers are allowed to
be manufactured in the manner in which they are being done now and the noise
level is left to be measured at the time of bursting of firecrackers, several
difficulties in implementation would arise, frustrating the regulation. Very
expensive instruments and gadgets are necessary to measure the sound level of
firecrackers. A sound level meter with required capabilities may cost around
Rs.3 lacs or upwards. Factors like wind velocity, temperature and humidity
have a bearing on the measurement of noise level. The gadgets for monitoring
these factors shall also be required to be installed at the testing field.
Technically trained persons would be required to be posted at every point of
measuring. Testing the sound level of firecrackers at the point of bursting
would mean that the firecrackers have already reached the market. The persons
to be hauled up would be unwary retailers or users and it would be difficult
to fix the responsibility on the manufacturers or distributors. Difficulties
of proof in the court of law would also arise. The noise level in a
firecracker is not stable. The same firecracker may have a different noise
level at the time of manufacturing and at the time of use on account of
climatic changes which would naturally occur by the lapse of time and change
of place. If the noise level was to be tested at the factory, the firecracker
would have already been manufactured. There would also be other difficulties
inasmuch as the clearance for marketability would depend on the firecrackers
satisfying the test carried out and at that point of time the firecrackers
have already been manufactured and shall have to be only destroyed if
unsuccessful in the test. That apart, the manufactures are spread throughout
the country. Some of them are small scale industries. Either many a testing
stations shall have to be established or else the manufacturers would be
required to go to centralized testing stations carrying untested firecrackers.
Both seem to be difficult situations.
156. On the other hand, prescribing of weight and composition of chemicals to
be used in manufacturing firecrackers would mean experiment or analytical
tests being carried out at any one station followed by publication of results
and laid down standards. Experimental checks would be enough to satisfy the
authorities, if the manufacturers were following the laid down standards as to
size of firecrackers, weight and percentile composition of chemicals used.
This system would enable identification of illegal firecrackers with
comparatively more ease. Size and mass of charge are two basic factors that
determine the noise level of a firecracker. By restricting these two prime
factors, noise standard is achieved more effectively. Though other factors
like climatic conditions may affect the noise level to some extent, but this
system seems to us to be more dependable and logical, at least on the
materials made available before us.
157. 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 their chemical composition, we
feel that a change in the method of evaluating the firecrackers shall surely
be more beneficial. It shall reduce the expenditure that shall otherwise have
to be incurred on expensive instruments that are necessary for the purpose of
measuring sound. The firecrackers shall easily be identifiable on the basis of
their mass of charge, and weight of the chemicals contained in the
firecrackers can also be easily measured. There shall not be too much need of
the personnel technically qualified for measuring sound, as what would then be
needed, would be to simply weigh the chemical constituents. It shall to a
great extent also be successful in putting an end to illegal fireworks, which
come in bigger sizes, as they now shall be more easily identifiable. In short
the implementation of the rules relating to firecrackers shall be easier and
carried out by the enforcing authority more easily.
158. Keeping all these considerations and the various submissions made before
this Court in mind we are of the opinion that a method as proposed by the
learned Amicus Curiae, of fixing the maximum chemical composition for each and
every firecracker, keeping in mind the limit of 125dB(AI) as the maximum
permissible limit, should be adopted. Every manufacturer should on the box of
each firecracker mention details of its chemical contents as well. In case of
a failure on the part of the manufacturer to mention these details or in cases
where the contents of the box do not match to the chemical formulae as stated
on their box, the manufacturer shall be liable for criminal prosecution.
159. The Department of Explosives should in public interest undertake
necessary research activity for the purpose and come out with the chemical
formulae for each firecracker. The Department shall at the time of giving the
license for manufacturing a particular firecracker shall specify the ratio as
well as the maximum permissible weight of every chemical used for the purpose.
160. Response during hearing The civic awareness towards prevention of noise
pollution in India is not as high as is expected. It is regrettable to see
that people indulge into making noise beyond tolerable limits and create
health hazard unmindful of consequences which are likely to befall not only on
others but also on themselves who create noise. The enactment of laws has
failed to create the requisite awareness. The best time to create awareness is
in the childhood. At middle- school level education and in the age of
adolescence the children should be taught in the schools, and in the homes as
well by the parents - What are the consequences of noise pollution and how
much health hazard is created by bursting firecrackers?
161. An awareness towards protecting the environment from all sorts of
pollutants and destructive activities needs to be created in the minds at an
younger age. Suitable courses of study need to be devised by preparing
text-books to be handed down to the youth in its shaping age and whilst they
are still in schools.
162. We are happy to note the way the people of the country and especially the
younger generation has responded to the interim order made from time to time
by this Court. News reports came to our notice wherein certain schools were
stated to have organized special lectures for the children pointing out the
adverse effects of noise pollution created by firecrackers just before the
schools closed for Diwali festival. The children decided not to burst
firecrackers during Diwali Festival. Some volunteered and took a vow to burst
such firecrackers as do not create intolerable noise and confining their such
fun and frolic only to the hours of the day and not to do so during the hours
of night. Such a response from young boys and girls who are our future and the
educational institutions on whom lie the responsibility of shaping the future
of this country is most welcome.
163. Certain incidental and associated issues require to be dealt with and
that we do hereafter.
164. Fixing of time limit for bursting firecrackers - Is relaxation desirable
165. The learned Amicus Curiae in his suggestions filed on 17th September 2001
had suggested that the "Bursting of crackers should be prohibited during night
time, between 10.00 p.m. and 06.00 a.m.". The Court had agreed and directed,
vide Order dated 27.9.2001 - "The use of fireworks or firecrackers shall not
be permitted except between 6.00 a.m. and 10.p.m. No fireworks or firecrackers
shall be used between 10.00 p.m. and 6.00 a.m. The Government of India, has
also expressed its opinion that there should be no relaxation in the time
limit for bursting firecrackers. Relaxation of restrictions on bursting of
crackers from 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. shall not be given as it is night time.
During the night time, people sleep and the high level of noise has
deleterious effects on the health and well being of the people."
166. Several interlocutory applications have been filed in this Court, wherein
it was pleaded that restriction on bursting of firecrackers in the night
should be removed during the Diwali Festival. Similar relaxation was demanded
for other festivals. These applications highlighted practices prevalent in
some of the western countries wherein such relaxation is allowed. We do not
think that we will be justified in granting any such relaxation. Indian
society is pluralistic. People of this great country belong to different
castes and communities, have belief in different religions and customs and
celebrate different festivals. We are tolerant for each other. There is unity
in diversity. If relaxation is allowed to one there will be no justification
for not permitting relaxation to others and if we do so the relaxation will
become the rule. It will be difficult to enforce the restriction.
167. The Calcutta High Court in the case of Moulana Mufti Syed Md. Noorur
Rehman Barkati v. State of West Bengal AIR (1999) Calcutta 15 has expressed
the following view:
"The condition of the European countries, England and America cannot be
equated with the condition prevailing in the State of West Bengal,
particularly in the City of Calcutta. -.West Bengal has got its own peculiar
problem and this Court cannot decide a matter looking at the Europe or America
where the amenities and the facilities are better. Density of population is
very thin. Roads are maintained in a perfect order. Traffic noise is
insignificant. The use of horns by vehicles is a thing which is prohibited
there unless in case of emergency. People are disciplined. Traffic moves in a
disciplined manner. No horns are there. The Ambient Noise Level in those
countries are not at par with those noise level in the City of Calcutta and/or
in different parts of State of West Bengal.
168. Accordingly, whatever may be decided by the European countries or
America, cannot have any direct bearing on the fixation of the sound level in
the State of West Bengal. In other civilized countries, cars move without
making any noise or sound. Condition of the roads is such that it cannot
create any noise beyond tolerance. People in those countries are not in the
habit of creating unnecessary sounds but in our country because of the gift of
the technology sound has become a source of pleasure for few people including
some young people. Use of unnecessary horn in vehicles has become a part and
parcel of Indian culture".
169. The picture of the entire country compared with the State of West Bengal
does not bear any material difference. Thus a rule, practice or provision as
to relaxation in Europe or America may not be of much help for us. They do not
have many festivals or celebrations round the year. Their festivals and events
are only at national level and one for all, unlike ours. Further, in the
European countries or even in America an insignificant percentage of the
population indulges in bursting crackers. Very few families, mainly Indian, in
these countries celebrate the festival of Diwali and burst crackers. Thus the
noise pollution produced by this small use of firecrackers is not a cause of
worry in these countries.
170. The situation in India is almost the opposite. The streets are congested
and the density of population per square kilometer is one of the highest in
the world. Firecrackers are burst in almost all the houses, thus leading to
pollution in the form of noise and smoke - both on a large scale, making it a
cause of worry.
171. It is a judicially noticeable fact that in advanced countries there is a
move for collective celebration of festivals. For example, in United States,
on May Day, a show of fireworks is arranged outside the city. People assemble
in large numbers to witness such show which is officially arranged by the
State. Such example can be emulated in our country. People belonging to that
section of the society which wishes to celebrate a festival or an occasion may
be encouraged to organize such event collectively and may have a show of
fireworks away from the residential locality. Such a move would save the
people from the hazardous effects of noise pollution caused by fireworks and
at the same time bring the people together and contribute in developing
closeness, unity and brotherhood.
172. In our opinion the total restriction on bursting firecrackers between 10
pm and 6 am must continue without any relaxation in favour of anyone.
Whether such restriction is violative of Article 25 of the Constitution ?
173. The affidavit filed by Mr. Mariappan, the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu
Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association, alleges the restriction on
bursting firecrackers to amount to infringement of religious rights under
Article 25. He says - "Therefore, the interference with the date and time of
celebrating the festivals, amounts to infringement of religious rights under
Article 25 and the limitation under Article 21 does not cause any health
174. The Court by restricting the time of bursting the firecrackers has not in
any way violated the religious rights of any person as enshrined under Article
25 of the Constitution. The festival of Diwali is mainly associated with pooja
performed on the auspicious day and not with firecrackers. In no religious
text book it is written that Diwali has to be celebrated by bursting crackers.
Diwali is considered as a festival of lights not of noises. Shelter in the
name of religion cannot be sought for, for bursting firecrackers and that too
at odd hours.
175. Another argument that has been put forward to remove the restriction
during festivals is that they are celebrated by most of the people and that an
inconvenience to a few should not become the reason for restraining a greater
176. In P.A. Jacob v. Superintendent of Police, Kottayam , AIR 1993 Kerala 1,
it has been said "However wide a right is, it cannot be as wide, as to destroy
similar or other rights in others. Jefferson said: No one has a natural right
to commit aggression on the equal rights of another. J.S. Mill said: If all
mankind minus one were of one opinion, and if only one person was of contrary
opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than
he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
177. If at all the people feel it necessary to burst firecrackers they can
choose and go for such firecrackers which on being burst emit colours or
lights mainly and produce very little or no sound. Their use can be permitted.
The Department of Explosives can, while working out formulae for firecrackers,
also along side classify the crackers into two categories that could be: (i)
sound emitting crackers, and (b) colours/light emitting crackers. A few
examples of such colour emitting crackers are, snake tablets, sparklers,
pencils, hunters, chakri, colour rockets, flowerpots, parachutes, etc.
Category (b) firecrackers may not have restriction as to timings. Though, it
would need expert examination and opinion if colour emitting crackers also
emit fumes and gases which though not source of noise pollution yet would
cause air pollution, equally bad. Till such time the Department of Explosives
makes any such classification there shall be a total ban on bursting of
firecrackers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Can an exception be carved out for firecrackers meant for export exclusively.
178. Should the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, be amended in such a way
that the firecrackers manufactured for export and use in other countries are
exempted from the Indian noise standards?
179. Mr. Mariappan, the Secretary of The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces
Manufactures' Association, had in his affidavit dated 8th February 2002,
requested the Court to remove the restriction on manufacturing fireworks meant
for exporting only and which are in excess of the sound levels prescribed for
fireworks within the country. It is submitted, "the Indian Standards on noise
of firecrackers do not have any relevance to firecrackers intended for export.
But the order of the Hon'ble Supreme court prohibits manufacture of
firecrackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB(C)pk at 4
maters distance from the point of bursting. There is a total restriction on
the manufacture of fireworks and crackers without any discrimination being
made between firecrackers that are manufactured for use in India and those for
use in foreign countries. The trade having been globalised, Indian
firecrackers have to necessarily comply with foreign standards if they are to
enter into the international markets. The Department of Explosives is already
having various provisions laid down under the Explosives Act, 1884 and the
Explosives Rules, 1983, which govern the export of fireworks. Prior approval
from the Department of Explosives is imperative for every export of fireworks.
Therefore the comprehensive position now imposed on firecrackers should be
modified exempting firecrackers that are manufactured for use in foreign
countries, from the purview of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 and the
Rules framed thereunder."
180. The Court on the above-mentioned submission sought for the view of the
Department of Explosives. The Department has expressed the view that
firecrackers that are to be sold in foreign countries may be excluded from the
purview of the noise standards provided they conform to the rules for
manufacturing the goods for export. They also submitted - "The firecrackers
manufactured and sold for export purpose may be excluded from the purview of
the firecrackers' noise standards provided they follow the rules for
manufacturing of goods for export. This will enable the manufacturers to
compete in the world market with the other suppliers of firecrackers. The
firecrackers manufactured for export shall have a different colour code and a
clear print indicating that they are not to be sold in India."
181. We are inclined to agree with the view of the Department of Explosives.
Firecrackers for the purpose of export may be manufactured and bear 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) The
firecrackers should have a clear print on them stating that they are not to be
sold in India. In case these firecrackers are found being sold in Indian
territory, then the manufacturer and the dealer selling these goods should be
182. How to check/control noise pollution The need for checking noise
pollution as highlighted by the petitioners and several intervenors deserves
183. 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 legislations. 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.
184. 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.
185. 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- together 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.
186. 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.
187. 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.
188. 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.
189. 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.
190. 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.
191. 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:-
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
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
192. 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
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.
193. 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.
194. 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.