Nuisance has been defined as ‘ an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land, or of some right over, or in connection with it.’ The essence of nuisance is a condition or activity which unduly interferes with the use or enjoyment of land.
Nuisances are divided into public and private, although it is quite possible for the same act or conduct to amount to both.
A public nuisance is a crime, actionable at the suit of the Attorney General on behalf of the general public at large. A public nuisance must affect a class of people – not just one or two people. Examples of public nuisance are obstructing public highways or keeping a common gaming house. If any person suffers special loss as the result of a public nuisance, over and above the annoyance caused to the public at large, he can bring an action in tort against the person creating the nuisance( Campbell v Paddington Corporation ). Normally a public nuisance will continue for a considerable length of time but even a single incident (i.e. a sudden explosion ) may also be held to be a public nuisance.
A private nuisance is an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of his land . A private nuisance is simply a tort and not a crime and it may be committed against a single person. Unlike public nuisance it need not affect a class of people. A private nuisance is an indirect interference with the enjoyment of land and must be distinguished from trespass, which is a direct interference. Nuisance may arise from the discharge of smoke, fumes, noises, vibrations and smells, etc. Private nuisance is actionable only if the plaintiff can prove that he has actually suffered from the interference.
The courts apply the tests of reasonableness to determine whether the interference is unlawful and amounts to nuisance. So the character of the locality where the interference takes place must be taken into consideration. The same act may amount to a nuisance in one area but it may not be in another area. The right to commit a private nuisance may be acquired by prescription. A plaintiff who is exceptionally sensitive may not complain about the normal and reasonable user of his property by the defendant.