This Diwali sale of firecrackers banned in Delhi and National Capital Region

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Supreme Court has banned sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR
Supreme Court has banned sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that there will be no sale of firecrackers in Delhi and National Capital Region during Diwali, as it restored a November 2016 order banning the sale and stocking of firecrackers there.

A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Ashok Bhushan, while restoring last November's order, said: "We are of the view that the 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."

However, the court said that the September 12 order lifting the ban on the sale and stocking of firecrackers in Delhi NCR will be back into effect from November 1.

Pointing to the adverse impact of the bursting of the fire crackers that is witnessed year after year, Justice Sikri, speaking for the bench, said: "The air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby, it leads to closing the schools and the authorities are compelled to take various measures on emergent basis, when faced with 'health emergency' situation."

This very situation, the court said, had occurred on the very next morning after Diwali in the year 2016 and "resulted in passing the order dated November 11, 2016".

"This order prevailed during the year but the impact and effect of this order remains to be tested on Diwali days," the judgment said.

Going by these considerations, the court said: "We are of the opinion that the judgment dated September 12, 2017 passed by this Court should be made effective only from November 01, 2017."

Making it clear that though it was not tweaking with the various directions issued by September 12 judgment, the court said that the affect of September 12 order "would not be given effect during this Diwali, and, therefore, we are making it effective only from November 1".

It said that all the temporary licences that police had issued in pursuance to September 12 order stand suspended forthwith "so that there is no further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR".

Further orders in this behalf can be passed on assessing the situation that would emerge after this Diwali season, it added.

Referring to the arguments by fire cracker sellers that the contribution of fire crackers to the worsening of the air quality was negligible and there were other contributing factors, the court said: "On the contrary, we have the direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels, which happens every year."

"... , burning of these fire crackers 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 said.

Referring to various campaigns "So No to Crackers" and the virtual consensus in the society that crackers should not be burnt during Diwali, which can be celebrated with equal fervour by various other means as well, the court said: "Irony is that when causes are brought in the court, there is resistance from certain quarters."

Pointing to "adequate statutory provisions" which can be invoked to "ban the sale of these crackers", it said, "It is one of the functions of the judges, in a democracy, to bridge the gap between law and the society. Here, fortunately, there is no such gap and the Court is only become facilitator in invoking the law to fulfil the need of the society".

Referring to the hearing of the matter by Delhi High Court 20 years back, the court said that the stand taken by the "CPCB at that time was the same which was taken before this Court when Orders dated November 11, 2016 or September 12, 2017 were passed. CPCB, therefore, has been consistent in its stand."

Taking a dim view of the petitioner referring to two-decade-old proceedings before the high court, the court said was not a "healthy practice" and they "denounce the same and place on record our strongest condemnation". 

"We are leaving the matter at that simply because of the reason that insofar as present petition is concerned it has raised a very important public cause and it needs serious and adequate consideration," it said.