Suit against Public Nuisance u/s 91 CPC

Suit can be filed against public nuisance

When a public nuisance or other wrongful act affecting or likely to affect the public occurs, two or more persons or the Advocate General can file a suit for a declaration and injunction or for such other appropriate relief in a civil court, after obtaining leave of the court, under Section 91 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (CPC).

While granting leave, the court must consider aspects such as good faith, status and position of the plaintiff. Interim leave can be granted initially and it can be made absolute after hearing the opposite side. If a single individual is filing a suit it will not come under Section 91 CPC.

What is public nuisance?

Nuisance is of two kinds: one is Public and the other is Private. Public nuisance is that tends to annoy the public when something that common good requires is neglected. Nuisance is an obstruction, risk or injury caused to any person and if the same is caused in a public place it becomes a public nuisance.

It is defined under Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the definition is applicable to all central acts. The Section states, “A person is guilty of a public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or 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”.

Alternate remedies are not prohibited

The Section 91 CPC does not limit or prohibit invoking any other right of suit which exists independently of the Section. Therefore, an individual can file a suit for special damage against public nuisance without resorting to Section 91 CPC.

Another remedy for public nuisance is taking criminal action for the offences under Chapter XIV of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

If a statute specifically authorises anyone to do a nuisance that is a legalised nuisance. No action is possible against legalised nuisance.

Examples of public nuisance

Fouling a water stream or putting chemicals into it amount to public nuisance. Making air noxious to health and depositing waste on public place are nuisances. Carrying trades dangerous to human health is a public nuisance. Blowing violently a trumpet at night is nuisance. Blasting stone in a quarry neglecting the safety of the neighbours is nuisance. Gambling in the street is public nuisance. Skinning a dead animal in public place is nuisance.

Poor man’s Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

The High Court is the court which has jurisdiction to entertain PIL cases on matters of public interest.

A case against public nuisance under Section 91 of CPC is called a poor man’s Public Interest Litigation as the case is of similar nature but filed in a subordinate court.

Additional reading

  1. The Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association v Babbalan