Modifying its earlier order that fixed a slot of two hours from 8 pm to 10 pm for bursting firecrackers on Diwali, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the southern states can burst firecrackers anytime in the day, but for two hours only.
It asked state governments of to pick a timing for bursting of firecrackers.
The apex court had, last week, ruled out a blanket ban on manufacture and sale of firecrackers, but had restricted the use of ‘safe and green’ firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali to tackle air pollution.
However, a bench led by Justices A K Sikri clarified that the direction for permitting the use of ‘green crackers’ was meant for the Delhi-NCR region and was not pan India.
The court was hearing several applications filed by the Tamil Nadu government and firecracker manufacturers seeking modification and clarification of its October 23 order. Firecracker manufacturers argued that it was not possible to come up with ‘green crackers’ this Diwali since there was no set composition for manufacturing them. The court observed that the direction for permitting the use of ‘green crackers’ was meant for Delhi and the National Capital Region and does not apply to the rest of the country.
The Tamil Nadu government had sought permission to burst firecrackers on Diwali morning as per religious practices in the state, besides the already permitted period between 8 pm to 10 pm. It said that the state should be given permission between 4.30 am to 6.30 am as well on November 6 to celebrate the festival.
According to the petition, each state or sect has a separate set of beliefs and traditions as far as Diwali celebrations are concerned and the top court’s restriction would amount to ‘rejecting the people with their due religious rights and would subject the people of the state into much hardship’.
Diwali is celebrated in the state early in the morning to commemorate the death of Narakashura, it pointed out.
Holding that 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, the top court had suggested community bursting of firecrackers and restricted timings between 8 pm and 10 pm for festivals like Diwali and between 11:55 pm and 12:30 am on Christmas and New Year. Only ‘green crackers’ that are within noise pollution limits will be allowed in designated spots which would be identified within a week. ‘Ladi’ or chain firecrackers, are also banned.
Only licensed traders can sell firecrackers, that too safer ones with reduced emission and permitted chemicals, the judges said. The local station house officer 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.
The court also agreed with the Central government’s suggestion that crackers should be burst in areas pre-designated by the state governments.
Ahead of Diwali last year, the top court on October 9 had temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers.