Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Supreme Court - Noise Pollution


The Judgement in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 72/1998 filed by Prevention of Envrn. & Sound Pollution Forum is reproduced below:

Writ Petition (civil) 72 of 1998

In Re: Noise Pollution  Restricting use of loudspeakers


DATE OF JUDGMENT: 18/07/2005


Implementation of the Laws for restricting use of loudspeakers and high volume
producing sound systems

[Arising out of SLP (C) No. 21851/2003]
Forum, Prevention of Envn. & Sound Pollution Appellant


Union of India & Anr. Respondents

R.C. Lahoti, CJI

These two matters before us raise certain issues of far-
reaching implications in day-to-day life of the people in India
relatable to noise pollution vis-a-vis right to life enshrined in Article
21 of the Constitution as interpreted in its wide sweep by the
constitutional courts of the country. Though a limited grievance
was raised to begin with but several intervenors and interlocutory
applications enhanced the scope of hearing and the cases were
heard in a very wide perspective centering around Article 21 of the
Constitution. Several associated and incidental issues have also
been gone into.

Facts in W.P.(C) No.72/98
CWP No. 72/98 is filed by Shri Anil K. Mittal, an engineer by
profession moving the Court pro bono publico. The immediate
provocation for filing the petition was that a 13 year old girl was a
victim of rape (as reported in newspapers of January 3, 1998). Her
cries for help sunk and went unheard due to blaring noise of music
over loudspeaker in the neighbourhood. The victim girl, later in the
evening, set herself ablaze and died of 100% burn injuries. The
petition complains of noise created by the use of the loudspeakers
being used in religious performances or singing bhajans and the like
in busy commercial localities on the days of weekly offs. Best
quality hi-fi audio systems are used. Open space, meant for use by
the schools in the locality, is let out for use in marriage functions
and parties wherein merry making goes on with hi-fi amplifiers and
loudspeakers without any regard to timings. Modern residents of
the locality organize terrace parties for socializing and use high
capacity stereo systems in abundance. These are a few instances
of noise pollution generated much to the chagrin of students taking
examinations who find it utterly difficult to concentrate on studies
before and during examinations. The noise polluters have no
regard for the inconvenience and discomfort of the people in the
vicinity. Noise pollution has had its victims in the past and
continues to have victims today as well. The petitioner seeks to
invoke the writ jurisdiction of this Court so that there may not be
victims of noise pollution in future. The principal prayer is that the
existing laws for restricting the use of loudspeakers and other high
volume noise producing audio-video systems, be directed to be
rigorously enforced.

Facts in C.A. No. of 2005 (Arising out of S.L.P.(C)

Leave granted.

The Government of India framed and published Noise
Pollution Control and Regulation Rules, 1999. On 11.10.2002 the
Government of India brought in an amendment in the Rules. The
amendment empowered the State Government to permit use of
loudspeaker or public address system during night hours (between
10 pm and 12 pm mid-night) on or during the cultural or religious
occasions for a limited period not exceeding 15 days. Vires of this
amendment were put in issue by the appellant submitting that the
provision is not accompanied by any guidelines and is capable of
being misused to such an extent that the whole purpose behind
enacting the Rules itself may be defeated. The High Court of Kerala
found the petition devoid of any merit and directed the petition to
be dismissed. Feeling aggrieved, this petition has been filed by
special leave.

The special leave petition and, in particular, the writ petition
raise issues of wide ranging dimensions relating to noise pollution
and the implications thereof. Taking cognizance of the matters as
public interest litigation, the Court vide its order dated 6.4.98,
directed the cause title of the petition filed by Shri Anil Kumar Mittal
to be amended as "In re. Noise PollutionImplementation of the
Laws for Restricting Voice of Loudspeakers and High Volume
Producing Sound System". The Court also appointed Shri Jitender
Sharma, Senior Advocate and Shri Pankaj Kalra, Advocate to
appear as Amicus Curiae. Both the learned counsel were present in
the Court and accepted the assignment. Unfortunately, Shri Pankaj
Kalra, Advocate expired during the pendency of the proceedings.
Shri Sandeep Narayan, Advocate has appeared in his place and
assisted the Court.

The Union of India and the Central Pollution Control Board
have not opposed the prayer made in the writ petition and the
appeal and have rather supported the writ petitioner. Valuable
inputs have been provided by the Central Pollution Control Board in
the form of pleadings, authentic publications, research documents
and other papers. The Union of India, while not opposing the relief
sought for by the petitioner, has pointed out several practical
difficulties in completely regulating and where necessary,
eliminating noise pollution.

Though, as we have already noted, the sweep of hearing in
these matters has been very wide, the principal thrust of the writ
petitioner and the learned Amicus has been directed towards noise
created by firecrackers, loudspeakers used __ by political parties, at
religious places and on religious and social occasions or festivals.
Hindu Bokta Jana Sabai, Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces
Manufacturers Association, Universal Society Performance, All India
Federation of Fireworks Association, Indian Fireworks Manufacturers
Association and some individuals have sought for interventions. It
is not necessary to notice the contents of the intervention
applications in detail. Suffice it to say that the reliefs sought for in
the applications are conflicting. Some of the intervenors have
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 regulated;

(iii) firecrackers burst during Diwali festival and on other
occasions for fun or merry making being prohibited
completely, if the noise created exceeds certain decibels and
being so regulated as to prevent bursting during night hours.

Other set of intervenors seeks such like reliefs:-
(i) granting exemption in favour of bursting of firecrackers
on or during festivals without regard to the limit of time as
such bursting of firecrackers is associated with the
performance of ceremonies relating to religion or social

(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

It is obvious that during the course of the hearing the scope
got enlarged and the Court has been addressed on very many
issues from very many angles.

Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees life and personal
liberty to all persons. It is well settled by repeated
pronouncements of this Court as also the High Courts that right to
life enshrined in Article 21 is not of mere survival or existence. It
guarantees a right of persons to life with human dignity. Therein
are included, all the aspects of life which go to make a person's life
meaningful, complete and worth living. The human life has its
charm and there is no reason why the life should not be enjoyed
along with all permissible pleasures. Anyone who wishes to live in
peace, comfort and quiet within his house has a right to prevent the
noise as pollutant reaching him. Noone can claim a right to create
noise even in his own premises which would travel beyond his
precincts and cause nuisance to neighbours or others. Any noise
which has the effect of materially interfering with the ordinary
comforts of life judged by the standard of a reasonable man is
nuisance. How and when a nuisance created by noise becomes
actionable has to be answered by reference to its degree and the
surrounding circumstances, the place and the time.

Those who make noise often take shelter behind Article
19(1)A pleading freedom of speech and right to expression.
Undoubtedly, the freedom of speech and right to expression are
fundamental rights but the rights are not absolute. Nobody can
claim a fundamental right to create noise by amplifying the sound
of his speech with the help of loudspeakers. While one has a right
to speech, others have a right to listen or decline to listen. Nobody
can be compelled to listen and nobody can claim that he has a right
to make his voice trespass into the ears or mind of others. Nobody
can indulge into aural aggression. If anyone increases his volume
of speech and that too with the assistance of artificial devices so as
to compulsorily expose unwilling persons to hear a noise raised to
unpleasant or obnoxious levels then the person speaking is violating
the right of others to a peaceful, comfortable and pollution-free life
guaranteed by Article 21. Article 19(1)A cannot be pressed into
service for defeating the fundamental right guaranteed by Article
21. We need not further dwell on this aspect. Two decisions in this
regard delivered by High Courts have been brought to our notice
wherein the right to live in an atmosphere free from noise pollution
has been upheld as the one guaranteed by Article 21 of the
Constitution. These decisions are Free Legal Aid Cell Shri Sugan
Chand Aggarwal alias Bhagatji v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi and
others, AIR (2001) Delhi 455 (D.B.) and P.A. Jacob v.
Superintendent of Police, Kottayam, AIR (1993) Kerala 1. We
have carefully gone through the reasoning adopted in the two
decisions and the principle of law laid down therein, in particular,
the exposition of Article 21 of the Constitution. We find ourselves
in entire agreement therewith.

The present cases provide an opportunity for examining
several questions, such as what is noise? What are its adverse
effects? Whether noise pollution runs in conflict with the
fundamental rights of the people? And what relief can be allowed by
way of directions issued in public interest?

Noise  what it is?

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 unwilling ears."

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 .

Section 2(a) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution)
Act, 1981, includes noise in the definition of 'air pollutant'.

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

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica : "In acoustics noise is
defined as any undesired sound."

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.

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."

"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.
Thus, the disturbance produced in our environment by the
undesirable sound of various kinds is called " noise pollution".

Noise as nuisance and health hazard

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.

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 .

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.

However, noises, which are melodious, whether natural or
man-made, cannot always be considered as factors leading to

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 .

Hearing Loss

"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 .

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

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.

Noise intrusion can cause difficulty in falling asleep and can
awaken people who are asleep .


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 .

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 noise .

Physiological Effects

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 .

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)

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 .

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 attacks .

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?

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.

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.

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

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.

Noise pollution like other pollutants is also a by-product of
industrialization, urbanization and modern civilization.

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 manmade.

Most leading noise sources will fall into the following
categories: road traffic, aircraft, railroads, construction, industry,
noise in buildings, and consumer products.

1. Road traffic noise

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Noise from consumer products

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.

Noise pollution in the special context of Fireworks.

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 .

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 .

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 .

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.]

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% .

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 taken.

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

Methodology adopted in other countries for noise pollution

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.

A few of the notable legislations may be mentioned

Noise Act 1996- U.K.

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

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

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.

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 pollution.

The Public Health And Welfare:- Chapter 65- Noise

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.

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.

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.

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

Persons installing specific facilities are liable to report the
same to the prefectural governor within 30 days.

The governor has the powers to order change in the outlay of
the factory when they do not confer to the noise regulations.

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 said construction.

The prefectural governor shall be responsible for the
monitoring of noise levels in designated areas.

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.

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.

Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention and
Control of Pollution From Environmental Noise
(adopted on October 29, 1996)

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 development.

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 neighbourhood.

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.

Every project under construction, renovation or expansion
must conform to the regulations of the State governing
environmental protection.

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 enterprise.

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 construction site.

It is forbidden to manufacture, sell or import automobiles that
emit noise beyond the limits set on noise level.

All units and individuals are forbidden to use high-pitch
loudspeakers in urban areas where noise-sensitive structures are

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 buildings.

"At night" means the period from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 repairers.

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

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.

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

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
(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."
Statutory Laws in India

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

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;"

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 rules.

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

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

A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it
causes some convenience or advantage.'

Sections 290 and 291 of the Indian Penal Code deal with the
punishment for public nuisance.

Criminal Procedure Code

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.

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.

Similarly, under the Model Rules, limits for noise exposure for
work zone area has been prescribed.

Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and Rules framed thereunder

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
alarming noise.

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 engine.

(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

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.

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.

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 noise


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 Rules.

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.


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 sense.

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."

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."

In Burrabazar Fireworks Dealers Association v.
Commissioner of police, Calcutta, AIR 1998 Cal. 121 it has been
"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)

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.

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".

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 limit."

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 held:-

"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

"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."

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.

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (2004) 1 SCC 571 this
Court has emphasized the need for creating environmental
awareness amongst students through education.

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.

Interim orders

During the course of the hearing of this case the Court had
passed several interim orders keeping in mind the importance of
the issue.

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 follows:

"89. Noise standards for fire-

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

(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."

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.

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 notice.

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

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 suggestions made."

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.

Difficulty in implementation of noise pollution control
methodology in India.

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 and prosperity.

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.


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

What is the Maximum sound level that should be permissible
for firecrackers?

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."

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).

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 65 dB(A).

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

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.

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.

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 2 fireworks.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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 dated 1.4.2003)

(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 Explosives.

(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 Rules, 1983.

(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).

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

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."

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Certain incidental and associated issues require to be dealt
with and that we do hereafter.

Fixing of time limit for bursting firecrackers ___ Is relaxation
desirable for festivals?

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."

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.

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.

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".

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.

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.

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

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 ?

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 hazard."

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.

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 lot.

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

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.

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?

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."

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."

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 held

How to check/control noise pollution
The need for checking noise pollution as highlighted by the
petitioners and several intervenors deserves appreciation.

Need for specific legislation to control and prevent noise
pollution still needs some emphasis. Undoubtedly, some laws have
been enacted. Yet, compared with the legislation in developed
countries India is still lagging behind in enacting adequate and
scientific 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.

There is an equal need of developing mechanism and
infrastructure for enforcement of the prevalent laws. Those who
are entrusted with the task of enforcing laws directed towards
controlling noise pollution, must be so trained as to acquire
expertise in the matter of fighting against noise pollution by taking
preventing and deterrent measures both. They need to be
equipped with the requisite equipments such as audio meters as
would help them in detecting the level of noise pollution more so
when it crosses the permissible limits and the source thereof.

Above all, there is need for creating general awareness
towards the hazardous effects of noise pollution. Particularly, in our
country the people generally lack consciousness of the ill effects
which noise pollution creates and how the society including they
themselves stand to benefit by preventing generation and emission
of noise pollution. The target area should be educational
institutions and more particularly schools. The young children of
impressionable age should be motivated to desist from playing with
firecrackers, use of high sound producing equipments and
instruments on festivals, religious and social functions, family get-
togethers and celebrations etc. which cause noise pollution.
Suitable chapters can be added into text-books which teach civic
sense to the children and teach them how to be good and
responsible citizen which would include learning by heart of various
fundamental duties and that would obviously include learning not to
create noise pollution and to prevent if generated by others.
Holding of special talks and lectures can be organized in the schools
to highlight the menace of noise pollution and the role of the
children in preventing it. For these purposes the State must play
its role by the support and cooperation of non-government
organizations (NGOs) can also be enlisted.

Similar awareness needs to be created in police and civil
administration by means of carrying out a special drive to make
them understand the various measures to curb the problems and
the laws on the subject. Resident Welfare Associations (RAWs),
service clubs (such as Rotary International and Lions International)
and societies engaged in preventing noise pollution as part of their
projects need to be encouraged and actively involved by the local
administration. Festival and ceremonies wherein the fireworks and
crackers are customarily burst can be accompanied by earmarking
a place and time wherein and when all the people can come
together and witness or view a show of fireworks dispensing with
the need of crackers being burst in the residential areas and that
too which is done without any regard to timings. The
manufacturers can be encouraged to make such fireworks as would
display more the colours rather than make noise.

Not only the use of loudspeakers and playing of hi-fi amplifier
systems has to be regulated even the playing of high sound
instruments like drums, tom-toms, trumpets, bugles and the like
which create noise beyond tolerable limits need to be regulated.
The law enforcing agencies must be equipped with necessary
instruments and facilities out of which sound level meters
conforming to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) code are a bare

Preventive measures need to be directed more effectively at
the source. To illustrate, the horns which if fitted with the
automobiles would create hawking sound beyond permissible limits,
should not be allowed to be manufactured or sold in the market as
once they are available they are likely to be used.

Loudspeakers and amplifiers or other equipments or gadgets
which produce offending noise once detected as violating the law,
should be liable to be seized and confiscated by making provision in
the law in that behalf.

Prohibiting the sale of such firecrackers which create noise
pollution by producing noise beyond permissible limits is practically
unmanageable. A better option certainly is to prescribe the
chemical contents and composition for each type of firecrackers to
effectively curb noise pollution. The Chief Controller of Explosives
has also been agreeable to take steps in this regard but has pointed
out difficulties attributable to shortage of personnel and non-
availability of lab facilities and requisite equipments for this

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.

It is hereby directed as under:-

I. Firecrackers

1. On a comparison of the two systems, i.e. the present
system of evaluating firecrackers on the basis of noise levels,
and the other where the firecrackers shall be evaluated on the
basis of chemical composition, we feel that the latter method
is more practical and workable in Indian circumstances. It
shall be followed unless and until replaced by a better system.

2. The Department of Explosives (DOE) shall undertake
necessary research activity for the purpose and come out with
the chemical formulae for each type or category or class of
firecrackers. The DOE shall specify the proportion/composition
as well as the maximum permissible weight of every chemical
used in manufacturing firecrackers.

3. The Department of Explosives may divide the firecrackers
into two categories- (i) Sound emitting firecrackers, and (ii)
Colour/light emitting firecrackers.

4. There shall be a complete ban on bursting sound emitting
firecrackers between 10 pm and 6 am. It is not necessary to
impose restrictions as to time on bursting of colour/light
emitting firecrackers.

5. Every manufacturer shall on the box of each firecracker
mention details of its chemical contents and that it satisfies
the requirement as laid down by DOE. In case of a failure on
the part of the manufacturer to mention the details or in
cases where the contents of the box do not match the
chemical formulae as stated on the box, the manufacturer
may be held liable.

6. Firecrackers for the purpose of export may be
manufactured bearing higher noise levels subject to the
following conditions: (i) The manufacturer should be
permitted to do so only when he has an export order with him
and not otherwise;(ii) The noise levels for these firecrackers
should conform to the noise standards prescribed in the
country to which they are intended to be exported as per the
export order; (iii) These firecrackers should have a different
colour packing, from those intended to be sold in India; (iv)
They must carry a declaration printed thereon something like
'not for sale in India' or 'only for export to country AB' and so

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

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

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

2. The State must play an active role in this process.
Resident Welfare Associations, service Clubs and Societies
engaged in preventing noise pollution as a part of their
projects need to be encouraged and actively involved by the
local administration.

3. Special public awareness campaigns in anticipation of
festivals, events and ceremonial occasions whereat
firecrackers are likely to be used, need to be carried out.

The abovesaid guidelines are issued in exercise of power
conferred on this Court under Articles 141 and 142 of the
Constitution of India. These would remain in force until modified by
this Court or superseded by an appropriate legislation.

V Generally
1. The States shall make provision for seizure and
confiscation of loudspeakers, amplifiers and such other
equipments as are found to be creating noise beyond the
permissible limits.

2. Rule 3 of the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control)
Rules, 2000 makes provision for specifying ambient air quality
standards in respect of noise for different areas/zones,
categorization of the areas for the purpose of implementation
of noise standards, authorizing the authorities for
enforcement and achievement of laid down standards. The
Central Government/State Governments shall take steps for
laying down such standards and notifying the authorities
where it has not already been done.

Though, the matters are closed consistently with the
directions as above issued in public interest, there will be liberty of
seeking further directions as and when required and in particular in
the event of any difficulty arising in implementing the directions.

The CWP, CA and all pending IAs be treated as disposed of.

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.

The Judgment in Civil Appeal No. 3735/2005 is reproduced below:

Appeal (civil) 3735 of 2005

Forum, Prevention of Envn. & Sound Pollution

Union of India & Anr.

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 28/10/2005

CJI R.C. Lahoti & Ashok Bhan


R.C. Lahoti, CJI

In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (ii) of sub-
section (2) of Section 3, sub-section (i) and clause (b) of sub-
section (2) of Sections 6 and 25 of the Environment (Protection)
Act, 1986 (29/1986), read with Rule 5 of the Environment
(Protection) Rules, 1986 the Central Government made the
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 (hereinafter
referred to as 'the Noise Rules') which have come into force
w.e.f. 14th February, 2000.

Rule 5 of the Noise Rules reads as under:
"5. Restrictions on the use of loud
speakers/public address system:-

(1) A loudspeaker or a public address system
shall not be used except after obtaining written
permission from the authority.

(2) A loudspeaker or a public address system
shall not be used at night (between 10.00 p.m.
to 6.00 a.m.) except in closed premises for
communication within, e.g. auditoria,
conference rooms, community halls and
banquet halls.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-
rule (2), the State Government may, subject to
such terms and conditions as are necessary to
reduce noise pollution, permit use of loud
speakers or public address systems during
night hours (between 10.00 p.m. to 12.00
midnight) on or during any cultural or religious
festive occasion of a limited duration not
exceeding fifteen days in all during a calendar

Sub-rule (3) has been inserted in the present form by the Noise
Pollution (Regulation and Control) (Amendment) Rules, 2002
with effect from 11th October, 2002. The constitutional validity
of sub-rule (3) was put in issue by the appellant herein by filing
a writ petition in the High Court of Kerala. By its Judgment dated
14th March, 2003, the High Court has directed the petition to be
dismissed and the sub-rule has been held to be intra vires. The
aggrieved petitioner has filed this petition by special leave.

On behalf of the appellant, it has been submitted that this
Court in its Judgment dated July 18, 2005 Noise Pollution (V),
in Re., (2005) 5 SCC 733, has held that freedom from noise
pollution is a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the
Constitution. Noise interferes with the fundamental right of the
citizens to live in peace and to protect themselves against forced
audience. This Court has also held that as between 10 p.m. and
6 a.m. which is the time for the people to sleep and have peace,
no noise pollution can be permitted. The appellant also submits
that the impugned sub-rule (3) which permits the State
Government to relax the applicability of sub-rule (2) and grant
exemption therefrom between 10 p.m. and 12 midnight, is
violative of Article 21 of the Constitution and runs counter to the
law laid down by this Court in Noise Pollution (V), in Re.

The learned Solicitor General has defended the vires of the
said sub-rule (3) and also the Judgment of the High Court. In
his submission, the power to grant exemption is a reasonable
restriction placed in public interest. The relaxation is for a period
of 2 hours only and that too for a maximum of 15 days in all
during a calendar year confined to cultural or religious occasions.
Since the power has been conferred on the State Government by
the Central Government it cannot further be delegated. The
power would be exercised by the State Government by keeping
in view the interest of the entire State population.
Our attention was invited to Government of Goa Order No.
7/4/98/STE/DIR/Part-I/1116 published in the Official Gazette,
Government of Goa, Extraordinary No. 5, dated 5th February,
2005, wherein exercising the powers conferred by the said sub-
rule (3) of Rule 5, the Government of Goa has specified nine
days, in advance, on which the exemption granted by sub-rule
(3) of Rule 5 would be available. The Government has reserved
the power to notify six more days for cultural/religious festive
occasions. Similarly, our attention was invited to Notification No.
NP 200/24/3 (Part 3) dated 7th April, 2003 whereby the
Maharashtra Government exercising the power under sub-rule
(3) of Rule 5 has notified 12 specific days, in advance, on which
such relaxation shall be permissible and remaining 3 days have
been reserved to be notified, on demand from the local people
for religious festivals and cultural programmes.

A query was raised that once the power to grant
exemption is allowed, often the exemption becomes the rule.
Exemptions tend to be granted as a matter of course and are
thus often misused. Another query raised during the course of
hearing was that in the event of the vires of the said sub-rule (3)
being upheld, nothing prevents the Government from amending
the Noise Rules and enhancing the number of days on which the
power to grant exemption would be available or increasing the
permissible hours of relaxation and that would again defeat the
very object of preventing noise pollution. The learned Solicitor
General responded by submitting that the impugned sub-rule
has very limited operation which is reasonable and may not be
interfered with by the Court, subject to certain further
restrictions. The learned Solicitor General submitted that the
Government does not propose to widen the scope of the
exemption either by increasing the number of days or by
enhancing the duration of hours of exemption. In spite of the
exemption being granted, the Government would take care to
see that the noise level does not exceed prescribed decibel

Certain intervention applications were also filed. One
application is by nine organizations/bodies situated in Pune,
seeking impleadment at the hearing in the appeal, so as to
support the impugned judgment of the High Court. There were
other prayers for interventions seeking directions for widening
the scope of exemption under sub-rule (3) of Rule 5. We make
it clear at the very outset, as we did in Noise Pollution (V), in
Re. (supra) that we are not concerned with any religion or
religious practices; we are concerned only with the fundamental
right of the citizens and the people to protect themselves against
noise pollution and forced audiences. We are inclined to quote
the following passage from Times of India (The Speaking Tree)
dated 7.10.2005:
"Those who favour the use of loudspeakers
plead that it is a devotee's religious duty
enjoined by the shastras to make others listen
and enjoy the singing of bhajans. Azaan too is
necessary to inform others that it is time for
namaz, a job assigned to the muezzin of the
Wait a minute. There were no loudspeakers in
the old days. When different civilisations
developed or adopted different faiths or when
holy books were written to guide devotees,
they did not mention the use of loudspeakers
as being vital to spread religious devotion.
So the use of loudspeakers cannot be a must
for performing any religious act. Some argue
that every religion asks its followers to spread
its teachings and the loudspeaker is a modern
instrument that helps to do this more
effectively. They cannot be more wrong. No
religion ever says to force the unwilling to
listen to expressions of religious beliefs.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna:
"This secret gospel of the Gita should never be
imparted to a man who lacks penance, nor to
him who is wanting in devotion, nor even to
him who lends not a willing ear; and in no case
to him who finds fault with Me... He who,
offering the highest love to Me, preaches the
most profound gospel of the Gita among My
devotees, shall come to Me alone; there is no
doubt about it" (18.67-68).
The gospel should be delivered to only those
who enjoy listening to it and who have the
patience to do so. It shall never be forced upon
those who do not want it. The holy Qur'an
says, "Lakum Deenokum Walia Deen"  your
religion and belief is for you and my religion
and belief is for me. Each stay happy with her
own religion and belief. It never says, make
others listen to the gospel of your faith by
using loudspeakers.

A similar instance is found in Biblical literature.
The Gospel according to Saint Luke says:
"When Jesus had called the Twelve together,
he gave them power and authority to drive out
all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent
them out to preach the kingdom of God and to
heal the sick.

He told them: 'Take nothing for the journey 
no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra
tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there
until you leave that town. If people do not
welcome you, shake the dust off your feet
when you leave their town, as a testimony
against them'. So they set out and went from
village to village, preaching the gospel and
healing people everywhere" (9.1-10).

The earlier Supreme Court judgment banning
the un-solicited use of loudspeakers at
inconvenient times is in conformity with
religious tenets."

The above-said passage appeals to us and in our opinion
very correctly states the factual position as to the objective of
several religions and their underlying logic.

Looking at the diversity of cultures and religions in India,
we think that a limited power of exemption from the operation of
the Noise Rules granted by the Central Government in exercise
of its statutory power cannot be held to be unreasonable. The
power to grant exemption is conferred on the State Government.
It cannot be further delegated. The power shall be exercised by
reference to the State as a unit and not by reference to districts,
so as to specify different dates for different districts. It can be
reasonably expected that the State Government would exercise
the power with due care and caution and in public interest.
However, we make it clear that the scope of the exemption
cannot be widened either by increasing the number of days or by
increasing the duration beyond two hours. If that is attempted to
be done, then the said sub-rule (3) conferring power to grant
exemption may be liable to be struck down as violative of
Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. We also make it clear that
the State Government should generally specify in advance, the
number and particulars of the days on which such exemption will
be operative. Such specification would exclude arbitrariness in
the exercise of power. The exemption, when granted, shall not
apply to silence zone areas. This is only as a clarification as, this
even otherwise, is the position of law.

Before parting, we would like to clarify further that we may
not be understood as diluting in any manner our holding in
Noise Pollution (V), in Re. (supra). We are also not granting
any exemption or relaxation in favour of anyone by our verdict.
We are only upholding the constitutional validity of the Noise
Rule framed by the Central Government in exercise of its
statutory powers.

Subject to the observations made hereinabove, the appeal
is dismissed and the Judgment of the High Court is affirmed.

All the intervention applications be treated as disposed of.


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