National Green Tribunal | Noise Pollution – violation of right to peaceful, comfortable and pollution-free life guaranteed by Article 21

“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. No one 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.”

National Green Tribunal

National Green Tribunal | Passing a revolutionary directions to the State for controlling Noise Pollution, a bench comprising of Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), J. and Dr. Arun Kumar Verma (Expert Member) come down heavily on the State government on their insouciant and careless feet dragging over controlling noise pollution from vehicular horns and modified exhausts in the State and directed the State to compulsorily abide and implement the existing legislative framework on the subject matter.

Applicant’s gravamen

That applicant vide letter to RSRTC, brought its attention on agonizing effects of use of air pressure horns by the State-owned buses on daily basis in their normal course of commutation throughout the State leading to violation of the laws on the noise pollution. Several newspapers also published articles related to the same issue. But no actions were taken by the State machineries/ respondents regarding repeated violation of the law laid in statutes and the judgments passed by the Supreme Court and this Tribunal. The applicant approached the Tribunal regarding flagrant violation of laid laws on noise pollution

The applicant contended that unchecked noise pollution levels impair the right to life, health, and wellbeing of around nine crore citizens residing in the State of Rajasthan. The applicant stated newspaper reports which contended that 70% of the noise pollution in the city of Jaipur is being caused by a single source i.e., vehicular noise pollution. Moreover, the intensity of vehicular horns in some cases is well above 100 decibels which is much more than the safety standards of 55 decibels as prescribed by law in Residential areas.

Tribunal’s Observation

The Tribunal stated that

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.

The Tribunal relied on Free Legal Aid Cell Sugan Chand Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2001 SCC OnLine Del 713 and P.A. Jacob v. Superintendent of Police, 1992 SCC OnLine Ker 170, where it was held that the right to live in an atmosphere free from noise pollution is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Tribunal opined that Article 19(1)(a) cannot be pressed into service for defeating the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21.

The Tribunal observed that non-recognition of noise pollution problems will ultimately affect human health and comfort in the same manner as air and water pollution problems have. The effects of noise pollution could lead to physical effects such as hearing defects, physiological effects such as increased blood pressure, irregularity of heart rhythms and ulcers and psychological effects, such as disorders, sleeplessness and going to sleep late, irritability and stress and finally and can also affects the work performance by reduction of productivity and misunderstanding what is heard.

The Tribunal also observed that directions issued by the Supreme Court in In Re: Noise Pollution, (2005) 5 SCC 733, were in exercise of power conferred on it under Articles 141 and 142 of the Constitution and thus, would remain in force in the State until it is modified by the Supreme Court or superseded by an appropriate legislation. These directions are as follows:

i. The State should organize special talks and lectures in the schools to highlight the menace of noise pollution and the role of the children and younger generation in preventing it.

ii. The Police and civic administration should be trained to understand the various methods to curb the problem and also the laws on the subject.

iii. The State should encourage Residents Welfare Associations, Service Clubs and Societies engaged in preventing noise pollution and should be actively involved by the local administration.

iv. The State should raise special public awareness campaigns in anticipation of festivals, events and ceremonial occasions where firecrackers are likely to be used or need to be carried out.

Tribunal’s Direction

The Tribunal directed the State to comply with the directions laid by the Supreme Court in In Re: Noise Pollution, (2005) 5 SCC 733 and Balwant Singh v. Commr. of Police, (2015) 4 SCC 801 amongst various other judgments covering the issue. The Court wherein directed the States to ensure:

  1. No noise source shall exceed 10 dB(A) limit above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 dB(A), whichever is lower; and
  2. No horn should be allowed to be used at night (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) in residential areas except in exceptional circumstances; and
  3. The States shall make provision for seizure and confiscation of any noise source which is found to be creating noise beyond the permissible limits.

The Tribunal directed the State to comply with the directions laid in Vardhaman Kaushik v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine NGT 3812, where the Tribunal prescribed a fine of Rs. 5,000/- in the form of Environment Compensation per act of noise pollution, which is to be collected by Traffic Police and maintained in a separate account with a liberty to authorities to approach the Tribunal in event of default of payment by a defaulter of Environment Compensation as the existing provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 were insufficient to fulfil and secure the mandate of the Noise Rules, 2000. The Tribunal also directed the State to comply with ‘Scales of Compensation’ devised by the CPCB in exercise of its powers and under directions of the Tribunal in Hardeep Singh v. South Delhi Municipal Corporation., 2019 SCC OnLine NGT 221.

The Tribunal directed the State to direct the automobile manufacturers to provide information on sound levels of vehicles at the point of sale and in technical promotional material, information to the consumers about the sound emissions of a vehicle and also the horns based on Precautionary Principle. The automobile manufacturers shall also provide the certificate of compliance issued under R. 120(2) of Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 or even that of horn/silencer etc. to the automobile purchaser and the same shall be available on automobile manufacturer’s website in public domain, for each prototype of vehicle.

The Tribunal directed the State PCB to notify the noise emission standards for vehicles at manufacturing and in-use stage and then issue necessary directions under S. 20 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, to the concerned Authorities for enforcement of such standards.

The Tribunal further directed the State to ensure strict compliance of R. 115(7) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989 wherein it is stipulated that only vehicles that carry valid PUC Certificate issued by authorised agency will permit to run in the State. The Tribunal also directed the State:

i. To record the PUC data which shall be automatically linked with the Central Server by way of uniform standardized software;

ii. To limit the number of PUC centres and upgrade them under strong supervision and control so to foster quality;

iii. To link annual vehicle insurance and vehicle registration with PUC certificate;

iv. To develop and adopt uniform and standardized data recording and reporting format by way of software which shall automatically transmit PUC data through online network to the Central Server;

v. To properly analyze PUC data for remote auditing of PUC centres;

vi. To strengthen inspection of PUC centres for quality control;

vii. To strengthen the licensing programme to ensure proper calibration authentic test;

viii. To float annual maintenance contracts for the maintenance of all testing equipment and accessories training of operators, calibration of equipments;

ix. To upgrade testing centers for high level of automatic emission testing so that operators and vehicles drivers are prevented from manipulation of results;

x. To introduce well equipped mobile test centres;

xi. To introduce a programme to detect and check visibly polluting vehicles.

[Consumer Unity & Trust Society, Jaipur v. State of Rajasthan, 2022 SCC OnLine NGT 213, decided on 23.08.2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Tarun Agarwal and Mr. Bhaskar Agarwal, Counsel for the Applicant;

Mr. Shoeb Hasan Khan, Counsel for the Respondents.

*Ritu Singh, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

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