Public Nuisance: An offence in Criminal Law

    Edited by: Vaani Garg

    According to Black law’s dictionary, nuisance is defined as an action which annoys and disturbs one in possession of his property, rendering its ordinary use or occupation physically uncomfortable to him. In other words, nuisance is an inconvenience caused due to an unreasonable action by one person to another. That inconvenience may be use of the property or any other right over it. It can also include any kind of pollution or obstruction.

    Nuisance can be divided into two kinds: (i) Private Nuisance and (ii) Public Nuisance.

    Private Nuisance

    Private Nuisance is a tort when there is an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or some right over it or in connection with it. The essentials of public nuisance consists of:

    (i) Unreasonable interference

    (ii) Interference in the use or enjoyment of land; the interference may cause injury to the property itself or injury to comfort or health.

    (iii) There is a damage or loss involved

    Public Nuisance

    Public Nuisance is caused when there is any kind of unreasonable interference or an injury or annoyance caused to the public. Section 268 of IPC defines public nuisance an act or illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to 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 right.

    The punishment for public nuisance as mentioned in Section 290 is fine which may extend to two hundred rupees.

    In the cases of public nuisance, the most common remedy given to the aggrieved party is an injunction order for continuing the act causing nuisance or according to section 133 of CrPC an order for removal of the cause by the magistrate can be given. 

    Cases regarding Public Nuisance

    In the case of Khachrulal Bhagirath Aggrawal v. State of Maharashtra, there was a kirana store which was maintained by Bhagirath Ramchand Agrawal. The applicants however made a grievance on account of storing of dry chillies in the godown as well as the work of loading and unloading thereof the health and physical comfort of the residents in that locality were affected and it had become practically impossible for them to bear any further. According to them, the loading and unloading of chillies cause pollution with the result that many residents in the locality suffer from sneezing, coughing, asthma, irritation of skin and burning sensation.

    Therefore, the principle held in this case by the court was public nuisance is an act of doing something that tends to the annoyance of the whole community in general or neglecting to do anything that the common good requires. Therefore it was held that proper orders in the matter by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate were brought.

    In the case of K. Ramakrishnan V State of Kerala, it was contended that smoking in public places caused non smokers to be “passive-smokers” and that causes public nuisance, therefore the Kerala High Court held that it was illegal to smoke in public places.