Make and sell only less noisy, noxious crackers says SC

Make and sell only less noisy, noxious crackers says SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared that only “green crackers” with reduced emission and low decibel would be allowed to be sold and manufactured in the country.

It also restricted the bursting of fire crackers to strictly between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali day or on any other festivals and between 11.55 pm and 12.30 am on Christmas and New Year’s eve.

Taking a grim view of pollution and serious health hazards, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan directed that the production and sale of those fire crackers not approved by the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) would be banned.

Relying on various reports including the one by the Central Pollution Control Board, the court noted PM2.5 (fine particulate matter in air) crosses the normal limits during Diwali, causing severe health hazards. “Unfortunately, such problems are virtually irreversible, which means that a person whose health gets affected because of this particulate has a long suffering including aggravation of asthma, coughing, bronchitis, retarded nervous system breakdown and even cognitive impairment,” it said.

In a slew of directions, the court said, “The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or laris) is hereby banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems.” It entrusted PESO to ensure that only those fire crackers with low decibel were allowed in the market.

It also ordered that the sale of the “green” fire crackers would be through licensed traders and e-commerce sites like Flipkart and Amazon would not be permitted to do any online sale.

In Delhi and the National Capital Region covering adjoining districts of Noida, Gurgaon and Ghaziabad, the court directed the Centre, the Delhi government and the state governments to permit community firecrackers only.

As far as other states are concerned, an endeavour shall be made by them also to explore the feasibility of community fire cracking,” the court said, asking the Centre and states to launch awareness campaigns.

On a plea made by three children, Arjun Gopal and others, through their advocate-father, for complete ban on fire crackers across the country, the court accepted the suggestions made by the Centre for tackling pollution caused by fire crackers during the forthcoming Diwali, like allowing only green crackers with reduced emission and low decibel.

The court favoured a “balanced approach” in dealing with the situation in view of the stiff resistance put up by fire cracker makers on a complete ban, citing loss of employment affecting their fundamental right of carrying out business and thereby revenue generation as well.“The right of health, which is recognised as a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution and, therefore, is a fundamental right, assumes greater importance,” it said.

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On a contention that bursting of crackers during Diwali was part of religious practice protected under the Constitution, the bench said, “The question is as to whether it should be allowed to be continued in the present form without any regulatory measures, even if it is proving to be a serious health hazard.”

“We feel that Article 25 is subject to Article 21 and if a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not entitled to protection under Article 25. In any case, balancing can be done here as well by allowing the practice subject to those conditions which ensure nil or negligible effect on health,” it said.

The court indicated more stringent norms would be adopted in future, based on monitoring reports from the pollution boards from all states in their cities for 14 days before and after Diwali for the parameters namely, aluminum, barium, iron, apart from the regulatory parameters against the short-term Ambient Air Quality Criteria Values proposed by CPCB with regard to bursting of fire crackers.

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