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Firecrackers in Diwali: Supreme Court tones down Telangana High Court order; Maharashtra, Karnataka agree to comply

New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court today removed the total ban on bursting of firecrackers by the Telangana High Court, ordering instead a modification as per the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order.

The Vacation Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna  directed the state government to comply with the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 9. This order of the apex court came a day after the Telangana Fire Workers Dealers Association (TFWDA) had filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court, challenging the Telangana High Court’s order banning the sale and bursting of fireworks in the state.

Meanwhile, in Maharashtra, the government has assured the Bombay High Courts that it will abide by the NGT’s order. In Karnataka, its High Court has asked the state administration allow the sale and bursting of only green firecrackers.


Telangana

The Supreme Court today said: “Telangana High Court order stands modified and to be in line with NGT’s order of November 9 which applies to all states including that of Telangana. All concerned with the State to comply with the directions in letter in spirit.”

The NGT Order

On November 9, the Principal bench of the NGT had ordered a total ban on all kinds of firecrackers in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) from the midnight of November 9 -10, 2020 to the midnight of November 30 – December 1, 2020.

Elaborating the order further, the Chairperson of NGT, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had stated that such ban would also apply to all cities/towns in the entire country where the “average of ambient air quality during November (as per available data of last year) fall under ‘poor’ and above category.” The order said: “For cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below, only green crackers have been allowed with timings for use and bursting of crackers has been restricted to two hours during festivals, like Diwali, Chatt, New Year/Christmas Eve etc,…”

Background

The decision came after the TFWDA on Thursday, asked for a stay on the high court order from the top court, saying that the high court order was passed on short notice without considering its adverse impact on the workers. The order, TFWDA said, is a clear violation of the Fundamental Rights of the members of the Petitioner Association and the fundamental principles of Natural Justice. The petition maintained: “It is important to acknowledge the nexus between law and economics in current times wherein a balanced approach needs to adopted for balancing of the two rights available to the citizens under Articles 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The TFWDA had argued that the high court failed in considering that the banning of the firecrackers on such short notice, i.e. 2 days before Diwali, would lead to immense financial hardship to the members of the Petitioner Association. The same would lead to serious prejudice to the investments made by the members of the Petitioner Association in the manufacturing of the firecrackers. It asked the court to consider that the sale of the firecrackers is seasonal in the country and banning of the sale and use of same on such short notice would cause grave prejudice to the trade of the members of the Petitioner Association.

The petition also referred to the Supreme Court order in the case of Arjun Gopal and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors, in which it was ruled that only green and improved firecrackers would be allowed to be manufactured and sold in adherence to the prescribed standards of Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO). The plea states: “These green firecrackers reduce emission by 25-30%.”

Karnataka

A bench of Karnataka High Court heard a bunch of petitions filed regarding the bursting of firecrackers and misuse of the government order restricting sale of firecrackers.

The Government informed the court that we have released a modified order giving clarification about the green crackers, the green crackers packaging can be identified through a distinct green logo of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) and Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).

“Green Crackers don’t contain harmful chemicals thereby reducing air pollution due to firecrackers considerably. These crackers are less harmful in comparison to conventional crackers,” Government further submitted.

However, the bench was still not satisfied and said that you have still not specifically mentioned that normal crackers cannot be used and sold in your order.

Advocate Narendra Babu, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that they can still sell normal crackers in the name of green crackers. As the lockdown is being relaxed people have started misusing it. It is a festival of lights, not crackers.

The court further, inquired about the number of devices available to measure decibel units to curb noise pollution. On this, after the counsel’s submission, the bench noted that there are only 120 devices in the state which is grossly insufficient even for Bengaluru.

The bench has directed the local authorities to ensure that only the green crackers with the specific requirement mentioned in the government orders are sold. It has also been directed to the state government to widely publicize among the public not to buy crackers without a green logo through social media, news channels, etc.

Police and Pollution Control Board has also been directed to act upon noise pollution complaints reported by citizens, and ensure that decibel meters are available especially in cities like Bangalore.


Maharashtra

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has made its submission before the Bombay High Court that it already has issued a notification banning the sale and use of firecrackers in nine Districts and asked the local authorities of 14 Districts to implement the order strictly.

The division bench of Justices A K Menon and S P Tavade accepted the statement and disposed a public interest litigation filed to seek complete ban on firecrackers in the State from November 10 to November 20.

Aniruddha Deshpande, who runs the ‘Right to Breathe’ campaign, stated in his petition that air quality is poor in several districts of the State, and it will also enhance the problem of COVID-19.

Through advocate Niranjan Bhavake, Deshpande had further submitted that if such measures are not taken to curb the spread of the virus, it will continue to affect large number of people.

“Considering the high density of population in India, as well as the limited resources for tackling pandemic, it is likely to spread across the nation with a high rate,”

The NGT order

The NGT’s Delhi bench had on November 9 passed an order banning the use of firecrackers in cities and towns where the air quality index was “poor” or “worse”.

The NGT order had stated that in places where the ambient air quality fell under the “moderate” or below category, the sale of “green” crackers would be permitted and timings for bursting crackers would be restricted to two hours.

After hearing submissions, the court expressed its satisfaction with measures initiated by the State government and asked the state to properly implement them and disposed of the PIL.

-India Legal Bureau

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