1998(4) ALL MR 249


Ashwin Jajal Vs. The Municipal Corporation Of Greater Mumbai & Ors.

Writ Petition No.496 of 1997

21st September, 1998


Constitution of India, Art.19(i)(a) and (g) - Restriction on illuminated neon signs after 11 p.m. - Keeping in view environmental and health hazard and nuisance value regulation of advertisement in this manner would be a permissible restriction - No violation of Art.19. (Para 10)


Y.S. JAHAGIRDAR, J.:- This Public Interest Petition is filed by a resident of a flat located on the 5th floor of a building known as Ganpat Bhuvan, Morvi Cross Lane, Chowpatty, Mumbai 400 007. The reliefs sought in this Petition are directions against the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to prohibit display of illuminated advertisements by use of neon lights in residential areas and to revoke permission granted to Respondent Nos.2 to 4 for display of advertisements on buildings known as Malbar View No.1, Beach View, Sea Castle, Stone Building and Fulchand Niwas.

2. Rapid industrialisation gives rise to fierce competition and such fierce competition brooks various attempts to launch their products in the market and manner and mode of such launching of the products has assumed multi facet dimension in the developing society. It is a fact globally accepted that advertisement of a product is indispensable part of this competitive industrial world. Of late, putting up hoarding along the busy streets was one of the sophisticated ways. Petitions were filed complaining of environmental damage and spoiling skyline of City. Petitions were entertained by the Courts at various stages and necessary directions were given. The present Petition seeks to highlight yet another aspect of the environmental and health hazard likely to be caused by illuminated hoardings and the advertisements by neon lights.

3. Focusing attention of the Court on this issue is the purpose of this Petition and we must state that the said purpose is well achieved.

4. Considering the assertions in the Petition and since the Petition was treated as Public Interest Litigation, the matter was adjourned from time to time. On one of the dates, the Court was extended the benefit of going through the report compiled by International Institute for Sustainable Future dated 11th January, 1997. The extract from the said report was noted by this Court in its order dated 8th October, 1997. It would be useful to reproduce here the relevant paragraph as noted and observed by this Court from the said report which reads as under :-

"The report, inter alia, is to the effect that, "We identified the following psychological impacts; insomnia, irritation, depression, tiredness, short temper, performance reduction and mood changes. Of the people surveyed between 50 to 60% of the people complained about the lack of freshness due to either sleeplessness or incomplete sleep. About 62% felt irritated and frustrated during their waking hours and almost 75% complained about performance reduction in their work". The report also indicates that only recently, the Scavandian countries have put restrictions on such lights in the residential areas."

5. After considering the aforesaid Report, on 10th February 1998, this Court passed the following order :

"In the meantime, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is directed to see that the neon lights are closed at 11.00 p.m."

This was done since the learned Counsel for Respondent No.1 submitted that on the basis of the Report submitted by International Institute for Sustainable Future with regard to the "Impact of Neon Light Advertisement on Human Health" the State Government has constituted a Committee to study the effect of neon lights on human body.

6. This Committee which was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr.A.A. Mahashur, Professor & Head of Department of Chest Medicine and Chief, E.P.R.C., C.V.T.C., K.E.M. Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, and other members, namely, Dr.Surendra Nath, Director, Medical, Central Labour Institute, Sion, Mumbai, Dr.Nambi, K.S.V. Head, R.A.D., B.A.R.C., Mrs.Sathe, Superintendent, Liscenco Department, D.C.G.B.Z., Mrs.Bhende/Mr.Mehta, K.H. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and Mr.Warade, G.N. Scientist In-charge, Paryavaran Vibhag, Sachivalaya, Fort, Mumbai, who are included and after going through both the reports which are made available to the Court, we feel that adverse effect of illuminated neon lights so freely used by the Companies to launch and advertise their products on the environmental as also human health is a fact which can be said to be well established. It is time the Court diverts its attention on this hazard before it assumes uncontrolable proportions. We may mention at this stage that by earlier order, the Corporation is already directed to regulate use of neon lights/signs advertisement boards and to see that neon lights/signs are put off at 11 p.m. in the night.

7. The Committee appointed by the Government has clearly reported that use of neon lights does have adverse impact on the human body. The Committee has observed as follows :-

"Indirect effects of light, however, can occur not from absorption of light energy in tissues - but from the action of chemical signals liberated by cells in the body. Examples of this relationship of light to biological rhythms, include physical activity, sleep, food consumption synthesis by the pineal gland which in turn affects maturation and activity of the sex gland."

8. Under the heading of "Harmful Effects", the Committee has noted the conclusions arrived at the 1974 NIOSH symposium on illumination, which read as follows :-

"1) High levels of lighting can cause damage to the eye i.e., retinal or macular degernation.

2) ........................

3) ......................."

Thus, the Committee appointed by the Government as also the Committee of which the report was taken note of by this Court, have one thing in common that there is adverse effect of illuminated neon signs advertisement board on the human health as also on the environment. The Committee, therefore, recommended the following terms:-

"1. The Corporation should put restriction and issue guidelines for the levels of luminance of the advertising lights. A source limit of 1 cd/cm2 which represents the TLV suggested by ACGIH (1997) can perhaps be enforced on these lamps with an operational limit of not more than 8 hrs. in a day.

2. The neon light signboards should not be allowed on the residential premises to avoid nuisance to the occupants of the buildings. The signs in residential localities should not be blinking as they add to the irritant effects and increase the nuisance value.

3. Since the bright light are a deterrent to peaceful sleep at night, the illuminated signs should be put off after midnight."

9. On the last date of hearing, the learned Counsel appearing for the Government has produced on record a letter dated 19th August 1998, by which the Government accepted the report of the Committee which was appointed by it on 16th October 1997, referred to above, and intimated to the Corporation that while granting permission for neon light advertisement board, these recommendations should be considered by the Corporation.

10. Mr.Sakhardande, learned Counsel appearing for Respondent No.2, however, has submitted that this would almost amount to denial of right to advertise by using neon signs and such recommendations, if accepted, would be violative of the rights which citizens enjoy of having free trade. We do not agree with the submission. Keeping in view the environmental and health hazard and nuisance value, it is always open to the Authorities to regulate the advertisement in a reasonable manner to the extent permissible. The recommendations of the Committee only seek to achieve this object.

11. In this view of the matter, we direct Respondent No.1 to expeditiously and preferably within six months, implement the recommendations contained in the Report submitted by the Committee and accepted by the Government and intimated to the Corporation by its letter dated 19th of August 1998. We make it clear that the Corporation, in addition to the recommendations contained in the report of the Committee, shall be free to consider any other safeguards, if suggested by the concerned parties.

12. In view of the above directions, this Petition is disposed of. Since we have treated this Petition as Public Interest Litigation, we have not considered prayer (b) of the Petition.

13. The direction, to switch off the neon lights at 11.00 p.m. contained in the order dated 10th February 1998, shall continue to operate.

Order accordingly