No crackers this Diwali in WB as HC imposes ban

Calcutta HC bans all firecrackers in Bengal during Diwali, Chhath and other festivals

It directed the police to maintain a strict vigil to ensure that there is no further sale or purchase of firecrackers

Representative image. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Calcutta High Court on Friday banned the sale, purchase, and use of all firecrackers during Kali Puja, Diwali celebrations, and other festivities this year to check air pollution amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Passing the order on a PIL seeking a ban, the court said that the expression “firecrackers” will cover all types of sparklers as well as other similar materials, whether or not their bursting or burning involves any sound or light generation.

"The state should ensure that there is no use or display or bursting of firecrackers of any type at all during Kali Puja, Diwali celebrations as well as Chhath Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Guru Nanak’s Birthday and Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations this year," the court-ordered.

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The division bench comprising justices Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya and Aniruddha Roy directed that only wax or oil-based diyas may be used for the occasions.

It directed the police to maintain a strict vigil to ensure that there is no further sale or purchase of firecrackers and take appropriate measures against those found violating the order.

The order thus nullifies a recent notification by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board that allowed use of "green" fire crackers for a limited period of time on Diwali and Kali puja.

The petitioner in the PIL had claimed that bursting of firecrackers of all classes will severely endanger the right to life of the citizens of the state, particularly in view of the worsening pandemic situation, as it would increase air pollution. The PIL sought re-imposition of ban that the court had ordered before Diwali and Chhath in 2020.

Advocate General S N Mookherjee, appearing for the state, pointed out that there are prevalent orders by the Green Tribunal as well as the Supreme Court, permitting restricted usage of green crackers during certain hours of the day.

The counsel appearing for the state pollution control board echoed him. The counsel appearing for the intervener, which is a joint body comprising firecracker manufacturers, submitted that as per the latest orders of the National Green Tribunal as well as the Supreme Court, the usage of green crackers have been permitted to a limited extent.

He further submitted that only such green crackers which are duly certified by authorised agencies of the central government may be permitted to be used. He reasoned that the manufacturers who have invested huge amounts of resources for making of the green crackers would be left in the lurch at the eleventh hour.

Hearing the pleas of all parties, the bench observed that keeping in view the practical realities, it finds nothing to establish that there is any mechanism in place at present to ascertain whether the crackers being sold, burst or lit are only green crackers, which comply with the norms set by the relevant certifying body.

The court said that it would be an impossible task for the police and law enforcement agencies to ascertain the veracity of the certificates of the crackers which are being used by the general public, irrespective of the classification under which they are sold.

The bench further said that keeping in mind the present pandemic situation, "which is getting marginally worse by the day and in view of the fact that even moderate Air Quality Index (AQI) can cause severe difficulties for people suffering from respiratory problems and long exposure thereof may also affect otherwise healthy people, we are not convinced that firecrackers of any form, either green or of any other category, ought to be permitted to be used during the coming festive season."

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