By Elton Gomes
The Supreme Court today did not impose a blanket ban on firecrackers. The apex court instead ruled that firecrackers can be burst between 8 to 10 pm during Diwali, and from 11.55 pm to 12.30 am during Christmas and New Year.
The two-judge bench comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said that only ‘green firecrackers’ (which cause less pollution) will be allowed to be sold. The court said only “low polluting” green crackers, which are within permitted decibel limits and emission norms will be allowed.
In addition, the top court banned the online sale of firecrackers and disallowed e-commerce portals from selling them. Any e-commerce sites found selling firecrackers will be punished for contempt. The judges said that only licensed traders can sell firecrackers, these include only the less polluting ones with reduced emission and permitted chemicals. The court has banned chain firecrackers or ladi, which comprise a string of 1,000 firecrackers.
The Supreme Court’s verdict came after a petition was filed by Delhi residents Arjun Gopal, 3, Aarav Bhandari, 3, and Zoya Rao Bhasin, 5, and their parents. The petition sought a complete ban on the manufacture and sale of firecrackers to curb air pollution.
Firecrackers manufacturers had earlier told the apex court that regulation was the need of the hour, and a blanket ban would bring about huge losses. They argued that firecrackers were not the sole reason for a spike in air pollution levels.
Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in 2017
In October 2017, the Supreme Court imposed a complete ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR). The ban remained in effect till October 31.
The apex court said the ban was brought into effect to see whether there was any positive effect on air quality during Diwali.
The decision irked some lawyers, who said that it was a case of judicial overreach while others simply termed the decision as anti-Hindu. On the other hand, the decision was welcomed by health activists. Central Pollution Control Board counsel Vijay Panjwani said the order was welcome and it would help people in Delhi-NCR region breathe easier, the Economic Times reported.
Centre opposed blanket ban on firecrackers
In August 2018, the Centre opposed a national ban on firecrackers. The Centre instead suggested the production of “green crackers”, community cracker bursting, and a freeze on the production of chained crackers, also known as laris, as alternative measures to curb pollution during Diwali.
The Centre suggested the setting up of Raw Material Characterisation Facilities to monitor the presence of high contents of unburned material, partially combusted material, or poor quality of raw material in gunpowder in firecrackers. It also suggested working with several organisations to bring down pollution levels during Diwali.
Air pollution in India
The Supreme Court’s decision to not impose a blanket ban on firecrackers will surely come as a relief to Delhiites and others looking to make the most of Diwali. Manufacturers will also be breathing a sigh of relief as they look to avoid losses.
Firecracker manufacturers earlier maintained that firecrackers were not the only reason for India’s alarming air pollution levels. India’s poor air quality leads to more than a million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier in 2018.
Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) continued to remain in the ‘very poor’ category on Monday with an average reading of 318 of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 at 9 am, according to data of System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR). ht
The Supreme Court’s verdict comes after it had earlier expressed concern over the increasing respiratory problems among children due to air pollution. In 2016, Delhi’s air quality after Diwali had been the worst in a decade, which was why the national capital was named the most polluted city in the world.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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