The emergence of Noise Pollution Jurisprudence in India
Noise is a result of different kinds of activities we pursue in day to day life and over a period of time, we accept it without any concern and tolerate it. However, that noise is capable of creating conflicts among those who produce sound and those who get to hear it unwillingly. Noise pollution has been a great nuisance ever since. It has spread so rapidly that it has affected the environment of the society too. As society evolved towards industrialization as well as upgradation in technology, the issue of noise pollution became mankind’s concern too. We are surrounded by different kinds of noises from the noise of the vehicles, the noise generated by industries and construction sites, to the noise of trains and aeroplanes. Noise is a silent killing agent, keeping that in mind, the Noise Pollution Rules of 2000 was established in India.
Effects of Noise on Environment
By the meaning of the term Noise, it is an unnecessary sound and nuisance by itself. For a legal context, polluting the environment means to contaminate the soil, air and water which may cause injury to an individual’s rights. Therefore, noise is one of the pollutants which contaminates the air and affects the life and peace of human thereby also causing an effect on the natural course of activities by people, in general. So, noise pollution basically means contamination of unwanted sounds in the air without considering its adverse effects on animals and humans. Noise may also cause psychological distress to mankind. Noise is one of the factors of air quality degradation and it impacts the social as well as personal life and liberty of any person and therefore it is also recognized as a cognizable offence.
Noise Pollution may also cause certain stress diseases, including hypertension. Certain changes in the behaviours are visible when exposed to noise at a greater level. Noise pollution may also cause sleep deprivation. Also, in Schizophrenic patients, noise may cause hallucinations (auditory).
Institution of Noise Pollution Rules, 2000
According to the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000 the Central Government of India has partitioned regions into different zones, that is, commercial, industrial and residential (or silence zones) in order to maintain noise standards. The Noise Pollution Rules, 2000 came into force to ensure the reduction of degradation caused in the environment because of noise pollution. The Rules provides for certain noise level which should be maintained in specific areas. It has also created a no-noise zone which will be an area in the proximity of a hundred metres of educational institutions, hospitals, courts as well as religious places. In accordance with the Noise Pollution Rules, the authorities may take action up the party who do not abide by the rules.
Noise: Affecting Personal Life & Liberty
Personal life and liberty are a set of rights which are necessary for the existence of humans. In the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India, the Supreme Court of India observed that the term ‘personal liberty’ doesn’t only mean to be the liberty of any person but also cover the liberty and rights of any individual.
Also as can be observed in the case of A.V. Chadel versus Delhi University that the terms life and liberty comprise of a set of rights which is enshrined in part - 3 of the Constitution of India and they are very important for the development of people and helps in the creation of a more civilised society.
Furthermore, in the case of Francis Coralie versus Union Territory of Delhi, the court focussed on the quality of life and its enjoyment within the scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Court observed that the Right to life is enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and it has a meaning merely beyond survival of mankind. It is not only related to the physical well being of the human but also includes mental well-being.
Sources of Noise
Humans have evolved and consequently focused on developing science and technology which created ease in doing numerous activities. Humans made machines and devices but these devices generated great outputs of noise and it became a part of routine life. However, the higher noise outputs are slowly affecting the life of people sometimes physically, manier times mentally. When it was realized that noise is slowly affecting the health of people, technology was created to curb such unwanted noises but then the cost of such technology became an issue. Due to the availability of options which helps to bring down costs are more therefore the producers and manufacturers are negligent about the preservation of nature.
Noises generated in road traffic is increasing and growing environmental concern for people in metro cities. Rail and trains noise is not the main concern but it is an important community concern, few other noise-producing agents are construction sites, manufacturing industries, aircraft noises among others.
Laws against Noise Pollution
It is well explained from the above that noise pollution not only causes physical damage to the people but also poses a psychological concern for mankind. To understand that we will look into the legal aspects of dealing with noise pollution.
The enactment of Noise Pollution Rules of 2000 was an effective step towards giving consideration to noise pollution as a capable destroyer of environment under the scope of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. This legislation established the meaning of noise as a nuisance in a detailed manner and provided an extensive picture of different sources of noise. This legislation created a division of regions into four different zones and prescribed the limits of the generation of sound in decibels (dB - this is a unit of calculating the intensity of the sound).
● The first zone is the Industrial zone which is allowed a maximum limit of sound to be produced is 75 dB in the day time and 70 dB to be the maximum limit during the night period.
● The second zone is the commercial zone which prescribes for a maximum sound limit to be 65 dB in the daytime and 55 dB in the night time.
● The third zone is that of the residential zone which provides for the maximum generation of sound to be 55 dB in the day time and 45 dB during the night time.
● The fourth zone is a silent zone (covering 100 metres of proximity from educational institutions, hospitals and religious places) which prescribes for the maximum limit of generation of sound to be 50 dB during the day time and 40 dB during the night time.
Note: the day time here means the time duration between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the night time means the time span between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Other acts like the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) also authorises the magistrate to pass a conditional order which requires the person creating nuisance through the noise to address the issue and resolve immediately. Similarly the Aircraft Act, 1934 is also encapsulated with the provisions for taking judicial action against the aviation services causing damage and injury to people through nuisance created from noise. The motor Vehicles Act, 1939 authorises the State Governments to control and maintain safety standards and make safety regulations concerning unwanted emission of sounds.
The current state of protection from noise pollution in India is growing at a very slow pace. I would like to make some recommendations to improve the present state. The existing legislation, direct or indirect is not effective to curb the noise pollution in India. Hence concrete, effective legislation is required to control and regulate the noise levels in the air and deal with the noise pollution in India. Another great step can be the appointment of local inspectors at the district level to keep a check on noise levels and authorizing them to take appropriate action when the noise escalates beyond the prescribed levels of sound generation.
Author Details: Rohan Sharma
The views of the author are personal only. (if any)