What is the punishment for noise pollution?

You have a right to complain against noise pollution and the authorities will take action against those who do. The punishment for noise pollution is:

Causing Public Nuisance

Creating noise is considered to be a public nuisance when you cause any injury, danger or annoyance to the public.(( Section 268, Indian Penal Code, 1860.)) For example if your neighbour plays a sound system at midnight very loudly, then this is considered to be a public nuisance. The punishment for such nuisance is a fine upto Rs. 200.(( Section 290, Indian Penal Code, 1860.)) If you continue to make noise even after the Court directs you to stop the noise then you may be punished with jail time upto 6 months along with a fine.(( Section 291, Indian Penal Code, 1860.))

Causing Environmental Pollution

Since noise pollution causes significant harm to the environment and surroundings, you will be punished with jail time upto five years with a fine upto Rs. 1 Lakh or both, if you cause any noise pollution. For example, if the construction noise of a building is making it hard for you to live, then this is a form of noise pollution.

If the noise pollution continues, then you may be punished with an additional fine of Rs. 5000 for every day the pollution happens. If the noise continues for more than a year despite orders to stop it, then you may be punished with jail time upto 7 years.(( Section 15, The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.))

Is it noise pollution if I burst firecrackers at night?

Sound emitting fire crackers cannot be burst in silent zones or during night time. (between 10.00-p.m. and 6.00 a.m).(( Rule 3, Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules, 2000.)) This is noise pollution and it is punishable with jail time up to five years with a fine up to Rs. 1 Lakh or both.(( Section 15, , The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.))

Even at the manufacturing stage, no one can manufacture, sell or use firecrackers which create a lot of noise (noise level exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB(C)pk at 4 meters distance from the point of bursting).(( Central Pollution Control Board, Noise Standards,  Firecrackers – Noise Pollution, https://cpcb.nic.in/displaypdf.php?id=bm9pc2VsaW1pdF9maXJlY3JhY2tlcnMucGRm.)) While measurements are being made, the Department of Explosives must make sure that the manufacturer has an export order, the firecrackers are within the noise limits, the firecracker boxes have a different packaging color code an that the firecracker has “not for sale in India” or “only for export in other countries.” Read more about these measurements here.

Is noise monitored by the Government in India?

Central Pollution Control Board in association with State Pollution Control Boards have also established Real-Time National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in seven metropolitan cities and installed seventy of Noise Monitoring System in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Lucknow and Hyderabad (Ten stations in each). You can read more here.

How do I know that the noise I am making is causing noise pollution?

Noise is measured through the unit known as a decibel. There are noise limits that you will have to follow depending on the area you live in. Since measuring noise requires scientific instruments (such as, a sound level meter), you may not always know if you are exceeding the noise limits for a particular area. In such cases, you should:

  • Make sure that regardless of what you do or which equipment you use, it does not turn out to be noisy and a disturbance for others. For example, if you are playing music during a party, try to keep the volume down at night time while people are sleeping.
  • Don’t wait for your neighbours or people around you to file a complaint to the police. If they mention that you are making noise that is disturbing them, try to reduce the noise.

Please note that it does not matter whether you made the noise unintentionally or intentionally; all that matters is whether you have created too much noise.

Is it noise pollution if I use my car horn too much?

Vehicles are a common source of noise pollution in India. If you misuse your vehicle horn then it would be noise pollution if:

  • Sound the horn in a silent zone(( Rule 5A, The Noise Pollution Rules, 2000.))
  • Sounding the horn needlessly or continuously in a manner which is more than necessary to ensure your or others’ safety
  • Sounding the horn during night time (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) in residential areas except during a public emergency.
  • Sounding a multi-toned horn that gives an unduly harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise.(( Section 119(2), Central Motor Vehicles Rules,1989.))

You can be fined(( Section 194F(a)(ii), The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.)) if you do any of the above.

If the police have stopped me from using loud speakers for my event, who can I complain to?

If the police has stopped loudspeakers because of noise pollution you can directly approach:

The Court

You can approach the nearest District Magistrate (Court) with the help of a lawyer to complain about the action taken by the police against you.(( Section 133, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.)) The Court has the power to temporarily allow the loudspeaker from being put to use, if it does not violate noise limits for an area.

State Pollution Control Board

The pollution board authorities may give an opportunity for the person who made the noise to be heard and then may modify or alter the order or action taken by the police.(( Rule 8, Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules, 2000.)) Read here to see the list of State offices you can approach.

Are temples or mosques allowed to play loud speakers for prayers in the name of religion?

There are multiple religions and numerous communities or sects, which play prayers through loudspeakers during religious festivals and during prayer times. Sometimes the beating of drums or reciting of prayers or use of microphones and loudspeakers may cause disturbance to old or infirm persons, students or children having their sleep in the early hours or during day-time or other persons carrying on other activities.

The Court(( Church of God (Full Gospel) in India Vs. K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare Association and Others – Court Judgment (2000) 7 SCC 282.)) has held that no religion prescribes or preaches that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums as it would interfere with the rights of those living nearby to live in peace. Even though the right to religion exists, the Court said that enjoyment of one’s rights must be consistent with the enjoyment of rights also by others. So if noise is created in the name of religion, it has to follow the noise pollution laws in India as well as the noise limits depending on the area.

Using such equipment or instruments will not be considered as noise pollution when it is conducted on days notified by the State Government. The Government will decide in advance which special days (maximum 15 days) would require such speakers or music systems. For example, the Government may allow it during festivals like Diwali, Onam, Pongal, etc.

Do factories and industries cause noise pollution?

Yes, factories are one of the prominent sources of noise pollution and if they are built-in industrial areas, they have to make sure that the permission noise limit does not exceed:

Area or Zone Limits in dB(A) Leq* (Day Time from 6.00 am. to 10.00 p.m) Limits in dB(A) Leq* (Night Time from (10.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m)
Industrial area 75 70

If any employee faces hearing loss(( Modifiable diseases, Section 89 and 90, Factories Act, 1847; Noise Pollution (V), In re, (2005) 5 SCC 733.)) after working in a factory, then any doctor who detects this must inform the chief inspector of factories with the details of the employee.

Can I file a case if my neighbour speaks loudly over the phone or plays loud music everyday?

For a complaint or case of noise pollution, you will have to see if your case is legitimate. For example, the Court held in a case that playing the radio loudly(( Noise Pollution (V), In re, (2005) 5 SCC 733.)) is not a case of noise pollution, but only a trivial act.

The harm noise pollution causes has to be assessed based on whether the complaint is coming from a reasonable man with a legitimate complaint or from a person of ordinary temper(( Section 95, Indian Penal Code, 1860.)) and sense. Even though there are no guidelines on how this is assessed, the Court gets the final word in deciding this. For example, if you have filed frivolous cases, the judge may not take up the complaint. When you file your complaint, the authorities will look at whether the noise limits are exceeding and only if they are, will your complaint be heard.