Section 290 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!
All such cases of public nuisance for which no separate provisions for punishment have been made under the Code are covered under this section. The punishment of fine extending up to two hundred rupees has lost all consequence in the present day and needs to be revised immediately. The section makes no provision for imprisonment.
The respondent association filed a case under section 290 of the Code against the appellant municipality for systematically and continuously failing in its duty to maintain cleanliness in the town. The important questions involved in the case were whether a municipality could be held to be included within the word ‘whoever’, and whether sanction before prosecuting a municipality was needed to be taken under the Andhra Pradesh Municipality Act, 1965.
It was held that a municipality was indeed included within the word ‘whoever’ because nature of the punishment in this section is such as could be given to a municipality, and also the word ‘person’ under section 11 of the Code includes a company or association or body of persons, whether incorporated or not. The question of sanction is also irrelevant because section 395 of the above referred Act does not refer to such prosecution.
Where a coal depot was in existence for seven or eight years at a particular place, it was not held to be a public nuisance as only two persons had complained about it, which in fact is not the proper criterion to identify public nuisance. But the court held, however, that if it could be proved to be a private nuisance, action as per law could be taken.
The manager of a school cannot be held guilty under this section when a portion of the school building collapses resulting in death of many persons and injuries to many others because the building has been constructed by the masons and the manager is not expected to know, being a layman, as to whether proper quantity of cement, lime, mortar and other materials had been used while constructing the building or not.
The municipal authorities who were responsible for the periodic inspection of the school should have been much more careful and they could easily have detected that the building was not fit enough for housing a school. Quarrelling in a public street is not punishable under this section as the same is not likely to cause annoyance to villagers. A public nuisance does not become legal even if it is being committed for a very long period of time.
Ting cows on a public road resulting in the place becoming filthy because of the cows urinating there has not been held to be an offence under this section. Playing the radio at a high pitch at a particular time disturbing others has been held to be too trivial and, therefore, not punishable under this section.
The offence under section 290 of the Code is non-cognizable, bailable and non- compoundable, and is triable by any magistrate.