New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to interfere with the Delhi government’s order putting a comprehensive ban on manufacturing, storage, sale, and bursting of firecrackers in the city, saying people’s health is important.
BJP Lok Sabha member Manoj Tiwari told a bench of justices AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh that a complete ban was imposed on firecrackers despite the court allowing bursting of green firecrackers.
”No, we are not going to interfere. Where the government has banned firecrackers, it means complete ban. People’s health is important. If you want to burst firecrackers, go to states where there is no ban,” the bench told advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, appearing for Tiwari.
The counsel said his client being an MP was responsible towards his constituency and the court has itself allowed bursting of green firecrackers. ”People burst firecrackers during wedding and victory processions after elections, then why can’t they be allowed to burst green firecrackers during festivals,” Jha said.
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He said that even the apex court and a Calcutta High Court verdict of last year said there will not be a complete ban on bursting of firecrackers.
”You should make the people understand that they should not burst firecrackers. Even you should not burst firecrackers during victory processions after elections. There are other ways of celebrating the victory,” the bench told Tiwari, who is an MP from North East Delhi.
The Delhi government had put a comprehensive ban on firecrackers for the third year in a row starting from 2021. Tiwari has filed a petition last year challenging the complete ban on bursting of firecrackers in Delhi and cited that in various other states people are allowed to burst them.
However, the top court last year refused to accord urgent hearing on Tiwari’s plea saying, ”Let the people of Delhi breathe clean air. People should not spend money on firecrackers instead they should eat sweets.” On September 11, to combat high pollution levels during winter months, Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced a comprehensive ban on the manufacture, storage, sale and bursting of firecrackers in the capital city.
The sweeping directive of the Delhi government includes the prohibition of online sale of firecrackers, comes ahead of the festival season. A similar blanket ban was imposed during the last two years.
During the hearing, the bench asked Delhi Police to formulate by Thursday, its argument that despite complete ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi, how they will regulate and implement the guidelines of the Centre on bursting of green firecrackers.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre and other government agencies like Central Pollution Control Board and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) said that they have been continuously implementing the directives of the apex court on green firecrackers and have put a mechanism in place to check sale and manufacture of normal firecrackers.
Bhati placed on record the regulatory mechanism for green firecrackers quality control which included random sample checking from markets and factories and their examination in labs, putting up encrypted QR code on each box of firecrackers, so that entire composition details and approvals can be viewed.
The bench told Bhati, ”All these labs, random checking and monitoring are okay but we want to know how these new guidelines are being implemented on the ground and what is the mechanism and penalty for violations.” The ASG said besides random checking and monitoring being done by designated officers, penalties include cancellation and suspension of license to manufacture and sale of firecrackers.
”We have a complete mechanism with safeguards in place. Presently fireworks manufacturers are manufacturing products with 30 per cent emission reduction in particulate matter vis-a-vis conventional fireworks products manufactured prior to Supreme Court order dated October 23, 2018 (by which ban was imposed on conventional firecrackers),” she said, adding that periodic review of emission standards are undertaken.
Bhati said that a separate affidavit has been filed by PESO giving details of regulatory mechanism which have been put in place and said that the court may issue appropriate directions, if required, so that this problem of pollution from firecrackers can be settled once and for all.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for a group of minors who filed the main petition in 2015 seeking complete ban of firecrackers in Delhi, said that he is not pressing the main prayer for complete ban but seeks direction for adoption of graded response.
”I am not looking for a complete ban but I am looking for a graded response to the problem of pollution due to firecrackers. Children are dying left, right and centre. Houses are being burnt due to firecrackers and people are suffering from injuries,” he said, adding that due to pollution in Delhi, there are reports that lungs of children less than five years old are turning black due to deposits of particulate matter, which should be pink in colour.
On August 31, observing that regulations become a ”mockery” if not implemented, the top court has asked the Centre and regulatory bodies like PESO to apprise it of measures taken to strengthen the protocols to ban production and sale of non-green firecrackers across the country.
Firecracker manufacturers have told the top court that expert bodies like PESO, CPCB and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have dealt with the issue of green crackers and now quality control was the only thing remaining to be addressed.
The CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR NEERI) has defined green crackers as firecrackers made with a reduced shell size, without ash, and/or with additives such as dust suppressants to reduce emissions.
The top court had in October 2021 said though there was no blanket ban on use of firecrackers, those containing Barium salts will remain prohibited.
While issuing several directions, it had said celebrations cannot be at the cost of the health of others and warned that top officials at various levels shall be held ”personally liable” for lapses.