A complete guide to the Tort of Nuisance

Definition of Nuisance:

Nuisance is defined as an act that is harmful or offensive to the public or a member of it and for which there is a legal remedy.

Nuisance as a tort refers to illegal interference with a person’s use or amusement of land, or a few rights over land, or something about it. The interference can be in any way, e.g., noise, vibration, water, smoke, smell, gas, etc.

"Commit no nuisance" written on a wall

Illustration-If A is creating offensive noise or smell in his own land which is causing inconvenience to his neighbor B, then A is said to be causing a nuisance.

For an act to be a Nuisance, it should have the following essentials:

1. Wrongful Act - For an act to represent nuisance it should be prima facie wrongful or it ought to be an illegal interference with someone or his property.

2. Actual damage/loss – It must create an inconvenience that the law considers actual damage.

Differentiation between Nuisance and Trespass:

The definition of nuisance may sound similar to that trespass, however, there are two different concepts. Some of the differences are-

  • Trespass is direct interference; on the other hand, Nuisance is consequential.

  • Trespass is interference with a person’s possession of land; however, in Nuisance, there is interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land.

  • In trespass, the interference is usually through some material or tangible objects; on the other hand, nuisance can be committed through intangible objects also as gas, noise smoke, etc.

  • Trespass is actionable per se, but in case of nuisance, it must be proved that damage is caused.

Kinds of Nuisance:

Nuisance is of two types-

  1. Public or Common Nuisance and

  2. Private Nuisance

1. Public or Common Nuisance:

Public nuisance is the nuisance that affects the right of the public, or huge public areas in general. Public nuisance is a punishable offense. For e.g., blocking a public path by excavating a trench may be a public nuisance.

Although such obstruction may cause inconvenience to a lot of people but none can be allowed to file a civil action for it, otherwise, there will be hundreds of actions for a single action only. To avoid this, the law makes Public Nuisance itself a punishable offence under criminal law.

In a lot of cases, a person may suffer some special damages which are different from that of the public. In such a case a civil right of action is available to the affected person. Although, the following conditions must be proved–

  1. The person must show a particular injury caused to him that is beyond what is caused to the public in general.

  2. Such damage has to be direct and not consequential.

  3. The injury must have a huge effect.

In Dr. Ram Raj Singh v. Babulal,

the suspect created a brick grinding machine adjacent to the premises of the plaintiff, who was a medical practitioner. The brick grinding machine-generated dust impured the environment. The dirt came inside the chamber of the plaintiff and it caused troubled for him and his patients, and it caused red coating on their clothes, caused by the dirt, and could be apparently visible.

It was held that the plaintiff has been proven to have specific damage and a permanent injunction was issued against the defendant preventive him from running his brick grinding machine there.

2.Private Nuisance:

Private Nuisance refers to the unreasonable interference with the use or enjoyment of land of the plaintiff resulting in some injury.

The essentials the constitute private nuisance are :

(i) Unreasonable interference:

  • Every interference isn't always a nuisance. To represent a nuisance, the interference ought to be unreasonable. Thus someone simply can’t deliver action for the inconvenience made by the traffic noise if his/her house is near a road, nor can someone sue his neighbor for playing or listening to music. The interference must be reasonable.

In Radhey Shyam v. Gur Prasad,

Gur Prasad and another filed a case against Radhey Shyam and others for a permanent injunction to stop them from putting in and running a flour mill within the premises occupied by the defendant. The complainant in the case alle