Noise Pollution and the Law
Updated: Jan 22
Lexico Dictionary defines noise as “A sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance”. The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 does not define the word ‘noise’ nor does it define ‘noise pollution’. Section 2 (a) of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 includes ‘noise’ in the definition of ‘air pollutant’. Hence, we can say that noise pollution is a part of air pollution. The Noise Pollution Rules focus on to what level noise is permissible in different areas and during a different time of the day.
The Act categorizes areas into one of the 4 zones ;
Industrial area (75 decibels allowed in the morning and 70 at night),
Commercial area (65 decibels allowed in the morning and 55 at night),
Residential area (55 decibels allowed in the morning and 45 at night), and
Silence Zone (50 decibels allowed in the morning and 40 at night).
The Act categorizes areas into one of the 4 zones; Industrial area (75 decibels allowed in the morning and 70 at night), Commercial area (65 decibels allowed in the morning and 55 at night), Residential area (55 decibels allowed in the morning and 45 at night), and Silence Zone (50 decibels allowed in the morning and 40 at night). Industrial areas are places with factories or industries. In this area, the noise limit is very high as heavy machinery and they make a lot of noise. Commercial areas are near markets or malls where they have a lot of people entering and exiting the place, hence making noise. Residential areas are where the people live. Having a market in a residential area doesn’t make it a commercial area, the noise limit here is less as people want peace of mind at home and they won't be able to get it if there is a lot of noise around. Silence zones are places like Courts or schools, these areas are noise sensitive and should be kept away from the noise for their normal and productive functioning. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to life and liberty and it also gives all citizens the right to live and sleep peacefully. The Noise Pollution Rules were made for the protection of this basic right of the citizen which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Central Government enacted the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules,2000 on February 14, 2000, because the noise levels were increasing in public places, in such a way that it intruded into people’s homes and disturbed them. Rule 5 of the Noise Rules 2000 is probably the most important as it restricts the usage of loudspeakers. This Rule was amended in 2010 to restrict the usage of sound-producing equipment as well. If the use of loudspeakers and/or public address systems are necessary, the user needs to have written permission for using it in public. The District Magistrate, Police Commissioner, and other officers not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of the Police are empowered to implement the authority under Noise Rules 2000. Even the State Governments have been given the power to grant permission or deny permission during any religious or cultural festivals or occasions to use loudspeakers and also, the use of loudspeakers cannot exceed fifteen days for such an event/occasion. The permission of using the loudspeakers cannot be used from late night to early morning, so people can still sleep in peace. In 2010, the Noise Rules were amended to include “firecrackers and sound polluting instruments” as the use of firecrackers were increasing. The smoke emitted from these crackers not only caused a drop in the quality of air but also created immense noise. Some people had even complained of becoming temporarily deaf because of the noise from the firecrackers bursting in the vicinity.
The fact that there was an amendment in 2010, proves that the government is interested in the well being of its citizens that come from the peace and quietness of the night and it acknowledges that mental peace does require some sort of restraint in the noise levels. Though the rules were amended, they are not followed properly. Even today, people use loudspeakers late at night. This causes people to be mentally disturbed because of the lack of sleep and also because of the high level of noise pollution. People do know about the repercussions of their actions. It's just that they do not care as they know they would not get punished. Police won’t do anything about noise pollution saying that comes under the purview of the private matters. What we need to do now is to implement these rules properly and penalize those who do not follow the rules. Only if the perpetrators are punished properly and promptly, the noise pollution will be controlled.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ishan Roy Chowdhury is currently pursuing law at Amity Law School Delhi.
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Edited by: Swathi Ashok Nair
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