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When music is public nuisance

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06th-Feb-2018       
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Md Mustakimur Rahman :
In Bangladesh, celebration seems incomplete without loud music. It could be religious festivals like Eid, Puja or Christmas, it could be New Year celebration or it could be even personal occasion like a wedding. The practice of using loud music is very common not only in any particular district or group but also all over the country within all groups of people.
Open music is also a part of our culture and tradition. We often see this kind of practice in different seasonal village carnivals. Using loud music in the festival is not wrong; however, we should remember that there is a limitation of using loud music shaped by our domestic legislation. Although most of us are not familiar with this legal restriction, but if we claim ourselves as active citizens of the state, then we should be very careful of our national laws, rules and regulations. If the music is enough loud to disturb others then it may create an offence called 'nuisance'.
In English law, nuisance is an area of tort law which is a civil wrong that causes a substantial and unreasonable interference with someone's land or his/her use of enjoyment of that land. Although nuisance is a civil wrong under English law, but under the Penal Code of Bangladesh, public nuisance is a crime. Public nuisance is a term that covers a wide range of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, convenience, or welfare of a community. Section 268 of the Penal Code of Bangladesh, 1860 states that "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, dangers or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right.
A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage."
The definition above clearly states that a person is guilty of public nuisance for his illegal act or omission which causes physical or mental injury, danger or annoyance to the public. Therefore, it is a person's valid right to protest against any irregular music that constitutes an offence because of the intensity of the noise. Now, let's see how loud music is connected with public nuisance.
Recently, a tragic incident occurred in Ram Krishna Mission Road, Wari, Dhaka. On the rooftop of a building, a group of people were using loud music in a gaye holud program [gaye holud is a program that is a part of the traditional wedding ceremony]. One of the residents of the same building named Nazmul Haque, 65, felt sick because of that loud music.
He then requested the people to reduce the loudness of the music. Based on the legal definition of 'public nuisance' above, Mr. Haque had legal right to protest against that loud music as we know that we have a legal duty to stay away from disturbing others by doing something which is prohibited under section 268 of the Penal Code of Bangladesh. However, it was very unfortunate to know that the protest went wrong and turned into a scuffle that led to Haque's death. The police arrested four people for the involvement in the killing and sent them to the court.
What can we see in the above scenario?  Are we aware of the wrong that we are doing quite often and causing unreasonable interference with others' enjoyment? In Bangladesh, nuisance is a very common form of offence that takes place in villages as well as in cities. In villages, most of the time people do this offence quite often without any prior knowledge.
This is because we do not have any precise legislation of tort, although few of the tortious offences are specified in the Penal Code; such as Assault, Public Nuisance, and Defamation etc., the gravity of these offences are not that serious like murder, rape and also the application of this law is common; therefore, people are not much aware of these offences. But sometimes we see that a petty offence like public nuisance can turn into a murder. Lack of legal education is one of the core reasons behind this kind unwelcoming situation. We, the people are getting formal education and being educated, but still, we are far behind to learn the civilized behavior that forms the connection between our legal structure of the country and morality.

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