In a major setback to traders, the Supreme Court on Monday held that there will be no sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region of Delhi till November 1, including during Diwali on October 19. The U-turn by the apex court comes less than a month after it had relaxed the sale of firecracker on September 12 after noting that a complete ban is “too radical a step”.
However, a bench headed by Justice AK Sikri on Monday restored the ban with immediate effect, but allowed relaxation only after November 1. It also ordered “forthwith” suspension of temporary licences issued by the police for the sale of firecrackers pursuant to the order of September 12.
In it extraordinary step, the bench said the November 11, 2016 order suspending the licences “should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Diwali period”.
While referring to the air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR during and immediately after Diwali last year, the apex court said due to the adverse effects of burning of firecrackers, “the air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby”.
The court had on November 11, last year suspended all licenses which permitted sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail within the territory of NCR till further orders. The apex court in 2005 had also directed that there should be a complete ban on bursting sound-emitting firecrackers between 10 PM and 6 AM.
“We are conscious of the fact that after the said (September 12) order was passed, the police may have issued temporary licences. Accordingly, those are suspended forthwith so that there is no further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR,” it said.
Stating that there was direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels, which happens every year during Diwali, it said burning of these firecrackers during Diwali in 2016 had shot up PM (particulate matter) levels by three times, making Delhi the worst city in the world, insofar as air pollution is concerned. Direct and immediate cause thereof was burning of crackers during Diwali.”
“It cannot be denied that there are various other factors which contribute to the air pollution in Delhi and NCR. There is a need to tackle those factors as well. However, what is the immediate impact of use of fireworks and fire crackers bursting during Diwali is an altogether different aspect,” it said.
Another bench headed by Justice MB Lokur had on September 12 modified its November last year’s order imposing ban on sale of firecrackers in the NCR.
While lifting its suspension of valid permanent licences, the bench had then said a graded and balanced rather than a radical approach was required to deal with pollution menace in the city. “A complete ban on the sale of fireworks would be an extreme step that might not be fully warranted by the facts available to us,” it said, imposing a total ban on transport of firecrackers into Delhi and NCR from outside.
The relaxation had come after Sivakasi fireworks manufacturers had challenged the 2016 ban on the ground that it had affected 821 fireworks industries and snatched the livelihood of five lakh employees.
However, it had passed various directions for regulating temporary licences. It also directed the government authorities to ensure that fireworks are not burst in silence zones and also restricted the Delhi Police from grant temporary licences to more than 500 shopkeepers.