Difference between Public Nuisance and Private Nuisance – Explained!

Keeping a common gambling house is a public nuisance, but where the branches of one’s tree hang over the house of another it is a private nuisance.

A private nuisance affects some particular individual or individuals as distinct from the public at large. Our study here is confined to public nuisance. Public nuisance is based on the principle embodied in the maxim sic utere two ut rem pnblicam non laedas which means “Enjoy your property in such a way as not to injure the rights of the public”.

The remedies open to a person for public nuisance are (i) action under Section 91, Civil Procedure Code, or (ii) prosecution of the offender under this chapter, or (iii) an action in tort, if any special damages is suffered, or (iv) magisterial preventive action under Section 133, Criminal Procedure Code.

This chapter deals with different forms of public nuisance, e.g., acts likely to spread infection, adulteration of food or drink or drugs, fouling water of a public spring or reservoir, making atmosphere noxious, rash driving, riding or navigation, danger and obstruction to public way, selling obscene literature or pictures, and keeping a lottery office.

To offend the sentiments of the followers of one creed by another who follow other creeds residing in the neighbourhood has not been regarded as public nuisance. In Muttumira (7 M 590) the setting up of an image by Muslims during Moharrum in the village waste land near a Hindu Temple was held not to constitute a public nuisance.

Similarly Bombay High Court in Byramaji Edalji’s case (12 B. 432) where certain Jains complained against the accused’s cutting meat on the varandah of his house in sight of the complainants —the neighbours. The exposure of the meat although revolting to the feelings of the Jains was held to be not sufficient to constitute a nuisance.

While providing for different kinds of public nuisance, Section 290 recognises that this Code is not exhaustive. It provides that a public nuisance, not otherwise punishable under this Code, shall be punished with fine upto Rs. 200 (Section 290).