Diwali firecrackers: SC says no to blanket ban, suggests making ‘green’ ones

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New Delhi | Published: October 24, 2018 4:44:07 AM

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled out a blanket ban on the manufacture and sale of firecrackers, but restricted its use to tackle concerns of deadly pollution.

SC says no to blanket ban, suggests making ‘green’ ones

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled out a blanket ban on the manufacture and sale of firecrackers, but restricted its use to tackle concerns of deadly pollution. It suggested manufacture of “green crackers” with low emission and decibel standards, community cracker bursting in major cities and a freeze on the production of series crackers or laris.

The apex court imposing stringent rules on the sale and use of firecrackers ahead of Diwali is likely to impact sales of mostly the unorganised industry with annual sales of around Rs 20,000 crore per annum.

During Diwali, firecrackers could be burst between 8 pm and 10 pm, while people can burst them on Christmas and New Year days between 11.55 pm and 12.30 am, the apex court ruled.

The SC also restrained e-commerce portals such as Flipkart and Amazon from selling firecrackers.

The restrictions on the public about bursting them during festivals, especially Diwali, have been imposed to strike a balance between celebrating festivals by bursting firecrackers and the need for a clean and noise-free environment.

Holding that the SC has to “strive a nice balance between the two competing interests” of the right to health of citizens and the right to carry on trade by fireworks manufacturers, a bench led by Justice AK Sikri suggested community bursting of firecrackers. Only crackers that are within noise pollution limits will be allowed in designated spots which would be identified within a week. Lari or chain firecrackers, are also banned.

“The annual firecracker sales amount to `15,000-20,000 crore, of which at least `5,000 crore come from Chinese imports. The SC order will definitely impact sales, but is difficult to quantify losses as the industry operates mostly unorganised,” Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All-India Traders, said.

Only licensed traders can sell firecrackers, that too, a safer ones with reduced emission and permitted chemicals, the judges said. The local station house officer (SHO) would be personally liable for any violation of the restrictions within their respective jurisdictions.

They also barred e-commerce websites from accepting any online orders and effect sales. “Any such e-commerce companies found selling crackers online will be hauled up for contempt of court and the court may also pas, in
that eventuality, orders of monetary penalties as well,” the SC held.

The court also agreed with the Central government’s suggestion that crackers should be burst in areas pre-designated by the state governments.

The Union government had suggested working together with institutions like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the National Environment Engineering Research Institute, the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to deal with Diwali pollution.

Ahead of Diwali last year, the top court on October 9 had temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers. Later, the court refused to relax its order while dismissing a plea by traders who had sought permission to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali on October 19, 2017.

The court was hearing a plea by three children seeking restoration of last year’s order banning sale of firecrackers in view of the worsening air quality in the NCR.

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