The term “Nuisance” implies any unlawful or tortious interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or the disturbance caused to any person keeping them from exercising their common right.
Nuisance is indirect or consequential interference with someone’s land. For instance, if a person plays songs on a speaker in an annoyingly loud fashion, the right to the enjoyment of other people gets violated and the person has therefore committed the act of nuisance.
In instances of nuisance, it is not pertinent for the wrongdoer to have interfered with or taken possession of land or any property; merely causing a hindrance to the right to enjoy it can be actionable.
Finally, the act of nuisance can be done through both tangible and intangible properties, the latter including noise, smell, smoke, emissions, et. al.
Types of Nuisance
Having understood the meaning of nuisance, it is now pertinent to be able to distinguish between the person or the class of people against whom the wrongdoer has committed the act of nuisance.
If there has been any unreasonable interference with the property of the aggrieved party, followed by an interference with the enjoyment of the land resulting in legal damage, then this would be the Tort of Private Nuisance.
The essential aspect here is that it should result in legal damage or injury to the aggrieved party. It is a prerequisite for any tortious claim to be associated with a legal injury and not merely an ancillary one.
However, if a person has interfered with the enjoyment of any property of the public at large, implying any activity that would cause obstruction or inconvenience to the people, then this would be the Criminal Offence of Public Nuisance.
Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code, reads “Any person would be guilty of public nuisance who does or is guilty of doing any act of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger, or annoyance to the public or people in general who dwell or occupy the property in the vicinity or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have an occasion to use any public right.”
The Tort of Private Nuisance
Private Nuisance is a more specific type of nuisance out of the two kinds, purely because of its nature and the ingredients which define the tortious activity, it has been deemed to be an action which is of a civil nature and not criminal. This implies that any suit filed in the Court of Law against the tortious wrongdoing would result in damages in the form of compensation and injunction rather than any prison sentence.
The most essential ingredients of Private Nuisance are as follows:
For instance, in the landmark case of Sturges v Bridgman, it was held that the reasonability of nuisance differs from person to person and therefore it is not a defence for the defendant to claim reasonable precaution of an unreasonable misuse.
For instance, if a person has piled up an accumulation of garbage at the gates of the aggrieved party resulting in its spillage over and above the demarcated boundaries between the wrongdoer and aggrieved party, the former can be held liable for the tort of private nuisance by the latter.
The nuisance caused, thereof, must be a direct result of the interference and interjection and not a remote one. In the landmark case of Radhey Shyam v. Gur Prasad, the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad held that the move by the plaintiffs to establish a permanent injunction against the defendants from opening a flour mill close to the former’s residence would add to the already established noisy neighbourhood. In this case, regarding the right to operate a business, the defendant as mentioned under Article 19(1) of the Constitution had a reasonable exception in favour of the right to enjoy the land of the plaintiff.
Another extremely pertinent issue in the Tort of Private Nuisance is whether an act which has no illegal connotation being enjoyed by a person on their own property can become the cause for the tortious claim of a private nuisance if it is unreasonable to any other person.
To understand this dichotomy, we need to invoke the phrase used by the Hon’ble Justice in the case of Att. Gen v Cole said, “if a man creates a substantial discomfort to others, he can not say that he’s acting reasonably. The two things are self-contradictory”
The solution to the quandary as presented above was found in the case of Christie v. Davey wherein the defendant became increasingly annoyed by the continuous sound originating from the house of the plaintiff. The latter held the claim of him being merely involved in the practice of music lessons. However, the Court held that regardless of the commission of legal activity (here, music lessons) it can not amount to discomfort to the other party/s.
The Criminal Offence of Public Nuisance Vis-A-Vis Section 268 of IPC.
Public Nuisance is an offence committed against the “public” or community. It becomes rather difficult to define the term public since its literal connotation refers to a group of an unspecified number of people. The question that one may beg is whether loud music from a household suffices to be an instance of a public nuisance if it causes unnecessary disturbance to more than one person in an adjacent household.
To clear the doubts, it has been established that the definition of “public” would tantamount be read with Section 12 of the Indian Penal Code which gives, “The word “public” includes any class of the public or any community.”
Like private nuisance, public nuisance can result from negligence or intentional activity. Courts will also scrutinise factors like the kind of neighbourhood, the nature of the harm and the proximity to those who are injured. However, a major difference from private nuisance concerns who may sue to recover damages. Since the impact of the nuisance is felt by the public, the law limits the right to sue to:
1. Public authorities who are responsible for protecting the rights of the public. These include state and federal agencies such as parks departments or environmental protection agencies; and
2. Those individuals suffer special damage from the nuisance. This means harm is different in kind than that the public suffers.
It was held in the landmark case of Dr Ram Raj Singh v. Babulal that the explanation of “special damage” means damage caused to a party in contradiction to the public at large. The proof of this special damage entitles the plaintiff to bring a civil action for what may otherwise be a public nuisance.
The seminal case for this doctrine was Campbell v Paddington Corporation wherein the plaintiff rented an apartment especially to view the funeral procession of King Edward VII and also sold some tickets to profit from the headline event. However, the defendant company erected a stand on the date of the procession completely blocking the view and resulting in heavy losses for the plaintiff. She filed a suit of public nuisance along with a special loss/damage to her for which she was duly compensated.
What To Do If Your Neighbour Creates a Nuisance
In the day and age, we find ourselves in, incessant modernisation has led to several cooperative housing societies being formed which have made people become aware of their duties to be courteous and harmonious and at the same time, their rights of ensuring the same.
If your neighbour has been creating a nuisance by partaking in the following, however not limited to, acts:
Piling up litter or trash at the common boundary between the two houses
Playing unreasonably loud songs at inconvenient hours without any prior information
Involved in the preparation of any substance which lets off a whiff of odour or fumes
Any other activity which causes direct discomfort to you or the members of the household.
In such a situation, the most immediate steps you can take are:
Inform the neighbour of the discomfort it causes you and/or the members of your household. If used, keep a copy of the letter for further steps if required.
If the neighbour persists despite warning/s, then you may send them a Legal Notice which would be a formal and substantial indication of your abhorrence and discomfort at their antics. The neighbour will be compelled to respond to the Notice, failing which they would be liable to appear before the Court.
You may also file a First Information Report (FIR) (as is provided under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code) and file a complaint against the neighbour under Section 268 of the IPC for causing a public nuisance with special damage.
Right to Privacy as a Defence Against Nuisance and/or Vandalism
It was held in one of the most seismic cases of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India that the fundamental right of every individual is guaranteed by the Constitution and the same shall be read in consonance with the unenumerated rights under Article 21 of the Constitution promising a Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty.
Vandalism is also quite a sour problem in society. To best gauge the meaning of vandalism, one has to look at Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code which defines mischief. It reads, in brief, that whoever with intent to cause or knowing that it might cause wrongful loss or damage to the public, person, destruction, et al thereby destroys or diminishes its value or utility has committed “mischief”
Chapter XVII of the Indian Penal Code includes such offences which can be included under the umbrella of Vandalism. The section is based on the legal maxim, sic utre tuo ut allenum non leadas, namely, use your own property so as not to injure another’s property. The express mention of the word 'Damage' which is not limited in its scope by definition, is not excessive and/or redundant and is indicative of the fact that the purview of the offence of 'Mischief' is not intended to be confined only to cases of 'Wrongful loss', but also to engulf within it all such cases of damages by unlawful means as in this case.
 (1979) 11 Ch. D. 852
 AIR 1978 All. 86.
 (1901) 2 Ch. 205
 Tort Law: The Rules of Public Nuisance Lawshelf.com, https://lawshelf.com/shortvideoscontentview/tort-law-the-rules-of-public-nuisance (last visited Sep 27, 2022)
 AIR 1982 All 285
 (1911) 1 K.B. 869
 WP (C) 494/2012
Prajwal Poojary, Legal Provisions regarding Mischief-Section 425 of IPC, Share Your Essays, available at- http://www.shareyouressays.com/knowledge/legal-provisions-regarding-mischief-section-425-of-ipc/115802 (visited on 28th September; 5:05 PM)
Arjuna Goudo and Ors. V State and Anr., (AIR 1969 Ori 200)