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The tort of nuisance is a legal concept that revolves around the idea of preserving a person's right to undisturbed enjoyment of their property. When an individual's improper use or enjoyment of their property results in unlawful interference with another person's right to use and enjoy their property, we can say that a nuisance has occurred. In this article, we will delve into the nuances of this legal concept, including its definitions, essential elements, and the available remedies and defenses.

Defining Nuisance

The term "nuisance" finds its origin in the Old French word "nuire," meaning "to cause harm, hurt, or annoyance," and the Latin word "nocere," meaning "to cause harm." In the realm of law, nuisance is an injury to a person's right to possess property and enjoy it undisturbed, resulting from the improper usage by another individual.

Definitions by Various Thinkers

To gain a deeper understanding of nuisance, legal thinkers have provided their definitions:

According to Stephen, nuisance is any act that causes harm or annoyance to another person's property or land, which doesn't amount to trespass.

According to Salmond, nuisance consists of causing or allowing to cause, without lawful justification, the escape of any deleterious substance from one's land into the land in possession of the plaintiff, such as water, smoke, gas, heat, electricity, etc.

Question for The Tort of Nuisance
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What is the origin of the term "nuisance"?
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Essential Elements of Nuisance

Nuisance involves two critical elements:

  • Wrongful Act: Any act intentionally carried out to infringe upon the legal rights of another constitutes a wrongful act.
  • Damage or Annoyance: The damage, loss, or annoyance caused by this wrongful act must be substantial enough for the law to recognize it as a valid basis for a claim.

Kinds of Nuisance

1. Public Nuisance

The Indian Penal code defines nuisance as an act which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance, to the people in general who dwell or occupy the property, in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger, or annoyance to the people who may have occasion to use any public right.

Public nuisance affects the society and the people living in it at large, or some considerable portion of the society and it affects the rights which the members of the society might enjoy over the property. The acts which seriously affects or interferes with the health, safety or comfort of the general public is a public nuisance.

Instances where an individual may have a private right of action in respect to a public nuisance:

  • He must show the existence of any personal injury which is of a higher degree than the rest of the public.
  • Such an injury has to be direct and not just a consequential injury.
  • The injury must be shown to have a huge effect.

2. Private Nuisance

Private Nuisance is that kind of nuisance in which a person’s use or enjoyment of his property is ruined by another. It may also injuriously affect the owner of the property by physically injuring his property or by affecting the enjoyment of the property. Unlike public nuisance, in private nuisance, an individual’s usage or enjoyment of property is ruined as distinguished from the public or society at large. The remedy for private nuisance is a civil action for damages or an injunction or both.

Elements which constitute a private nuisance:

  • The interference must be unreasonable or unlawful. It is meant that the act should not be justifiable in the eyes of the law and should be by an act which no reasonable man would do.
  • Such interference has to be with the use or enjoyment of land, or of some rights over the property, or it should be in connection with the property or physical discomfort.
  • There should be seeable damage to the property or with the enjoyment of the property in order to constitute a private nuisance.

Case Law: Rose v. Miles(1815) 4M &S. 101
The defendant had wrongfully obstructed a public navigable creek which obstructed the defendant from transporting his goods through the creek due to which he had to transport his good through land because of which he suffered extra costs in the transportation. It was held that the act of the defendant had caused a public nuisance as the plaintiff successfully proved that he had incurred loss over other members of the society and this he had a right of action against the defendant.

A nuisance may be in respect of either property or physical discomfort:

  • Property: In the case of a nuisance with respect to the property, any sensible injury to the property will be enough to support an action for the damages.
  • Physical discomfort: In a suit of nuisance arising out of physical discomfort, there are two essential conditions required.

In excess of the natural and ordinary course of enjoyment of the property.
The usage by the third party should be of out of the natural course of enjoyment from one party.

Interfering with the ordinary conduct of human existence.
The discomfort should be of such a degree that it would affect an individual in the locality and people would not be able to put up or tolerate with the enjoyment.

Case Law: Radhey Shyam v. Gur Prasad AIR 1978 All 86
Mr. Gur Prasad Saxena and another filed a suit against Mr. Radhey Shyam and five other individuals for permanent injunction restraining the defendant from installing and running a flour mill in the premises occupied by the defendant. Gur Prasad Saxena filed another suit against Radhey Shyam and five other individuals for a permanent injunction from running and continuing to run an oil expeller plant. The plaintiff has alleged that the mill was causing a lot of noise which in turn was affecting the health of the plaintiff. It was held that by running a flour mill in a residential area, the defendant was causing a nuisance to the plaintiff and affecting his health severely.

Case Law: Rose v. Miles (1815) 4 M & S. 101

This case highlighted the impact of public nuisance. The defendant wrongfully obstructed a public navigable creek, impeding the plaintiff's transportation of goods. The court held that the defendant's actions constituted a public nuisance because they caused a loss to the plaintiff and other members of society, granting the plaintiff a right of action.

What are the defences available to Nuisance?

There are many valid defences available to an action for tort, these are:

1. Prescription

  • A prescription is a title acquired by use and time and which is allowed by the law, a person claims any property because his ancestors have had the possession of the property by law.
  • Prescription is a special kind of defence, as, if a nuisance has been peacefully and openly been going on without any kind of interruption then the defence of prescription is available to the party. On the expiration of this term of twenty years, the nuisance becomes legalised as if it had been authorised in its commencement by a grant from the owner of the land.
  • The essence of prescription is explained in Section 26 of the limitations act and Section 15 of the Easements Act.

There are three essentials to establish a person’s right by prescription, these are

  • Use or enjoyment of the property: The use or enjoyment of the property must be acquired by the individual by law and the use or enjoyment must be done openly and peacefully.
  • Identity of the thing/property enjoyed: The individual should be aware of the identity of thing or property which he or she is peacefully or publically enjoying.
  • It should be unfavourable to the rights of another individual: The use or enjoyment of the thing or property should be of such a nature that it should be affecting the rights of another individual thus causing a nuisance and even after knowing of such a nuisance being caused there must’ve been no action taken against the person causing it for at least twenty years.

2. Statutory authority

  • When a statute authorises the doing of a particular act or the use of land in a way, all the remedies whether by action or indictment or charge, are taken away. Provided that every necessary reasonable precaution has been taken.
  • The statutory authority may be either absolute or conditional.
  • When there is an absolute authority, the statue allows the act and it is not necessary that the act must cause a nuisance or any other form of injury.
  • Whereas in the case where there is a conditional authority, the state allows the act to be done only if it can be done without any causation of nuisance or any other form of injury.

Question for The Tort of Nuisance
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What are the essential elements of a nuisance?
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What are the remedies for nuisance?

There are three kinds of remedies available in the case of a nuisance, these are:

1. Injunction

An injunction is a judicial order restraining a person from doing or continuing an act which might be threatening or invading the legal rights of another. It may be in the form of a temporary injunction which is granted on for a limited period of time which may get reversed or confirmed. If it is confirmed, then it takes the form of a permanent injunction.

2. Damages

The damages may be offered in terms of compensation to the aggrieved party, these could be nominal damages. The damages to be paid to the aggrieved party is decided by the statue and the purpose of the damages is not just compensating the individual who has suffered but also making the defendant realise his mistakes and deter him from repeating the same wrong done by him.

3. Abatement

  • Abatement of nuisance means the removal of a nuisance by the party who has suffered, without any legal proceedings. This kind of remedy is not favoured by the law. But is available under certain circumstances.
  • This privilege must be exercised within a reasonable time and usually requires notice to the defendant and his failure to act. Reasonable for may be used to employ the abatement, and the plaintiff will be liable if his actions go beyond reasonable measures.
  • Example: Ace and Beck are neighbours, Beck has a poisonous tree on his land which overtime outgrows and reaches the land of Ace. Now Ace has every right to cut that part of the tree which is affect his enjoyment of his land with prior notice to Beck. But if Ace goes to Beck, land without his permission, and chops off the entire tree which then falls on the land of Beck, then Ace shall be in the wrong here as his action taken would be beyond reasonableness.

Nuisance and Trespass – Distinguished

  • Trespass, on one hand, is the direct physical interference with the plaintiff’s possession of the property through some material or tangible object whereas, in the case of a nuisance, it is an injury to some right of the possession of the property but not the possession itself.
  • Trespass is actionable per se (actions which do not require allegations or proof), whereas, in the case of a nuisance, only the proof of actual damage to the property is required.
    • Example: Simply entering on another individual’s property without the owner’s consent and without causing him any injury would be trespass whereas if there is an injury to the property of another or any interference with his enjoyment of the property, then it will amount to a nuisance.
  • If the interference with the use of the property is direct, then the wrong is trespass. Whereas if the interference with the use or enjoyment of the property is consequential then it will amount to a nuisance.
    • Example: Planting a tree on someone else’s land would amount to trespass whereas if a person plants a tree on their own land which then outgrows to the land of another would amount to a nuisance.

Case Law: Ushaben Navinchandra Trivedi v. Bhagyalaxmi Chitra Mandal AIR 1978 Guj 13, (1977) GLR 424.
In this case, the plaintiff had sued the defendant for a permanent injunction to restrain the defendant from showing a movie named “Jai Santoshi Maa”. It was said by the plaintiff that the contents of the movie significantly hurt the religious sentiments of the people belonging to the Hindu community as well as the religious sentiments of the plaintiff as the movie showed Hindu Goddess’ Laxmi, Parvati, and Saraswati, to be jealous of one another and were ridiculed in the film. It was held that hurt to religious sentiments was not an actionable wrong.


The concept of nuisance is an integral part of daily life and law. It has evolved and developed through a blend of English principles and Indian legal precedents. Whether it's private or public nuisance, the legal framework ensures fairness and protection of all parties involved, safeguarding their rights to property and enjoyment. Nuisance law plays a crucial role in maintaining harmony and resolving conflicts in society.

The document The Tort of Nuisance | Law Optional Notes for UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Law Optional Notes for UPSC.
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FAQs on The Tort of Nuisance - Law Optional Notes for UPSC

1. What is the tort of nuisance?
Ans. The tort of nuisance is a legal concept that refers to the interference with a person's use and enjoyment of their land or property. It can include both private nuisance, which affects an individual or a small number of people, and public nuisance, which affects the general public.
2. What are some examples of nuisance?
Ans. Examples of nuisance can include loud noises, offensive smells, pollution, vibrations, and obstruction of light or air. These interferences can be caused by both individuals and businesses.
3. What are the essential elements of nuisance?
Ans. The essential elements of nuisance include an unreasonable interference with a person's use and enjoyment of their land, causation (the interference must be caused by the defendant), and intention or negligence on the part of the defendant.
4. What are the defences available to nuisance?
Ans. Some common defences to nuisance include statutory authority (when the interference is authorized by law), coming to the nuisance (when the plaintiff moved to the area knowing about the interference), and prescription (when the interference has been ongoing for a long period of time).
5. What are the remedies for nuisance?
Ans. The remedies for nuisance can include damages (monetary compensation for the harm caused), injunctions (court orders to stop the interference), abatement (removing the source of the nuisance), and self-help (taking reasonable actions to stop the interference).
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