In an effort to check alarming pollution level, the Supreme Court on Monday slapped a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR region during Diwali this year, dealing a blow to the traders and businessmen dealing in them. Giving out the order, the apex court maintained that its last month’s order, which lifted the stay and permitted the sale of firecrackers, would come into effective only from November 1, 12 days after the ‘festival of lights’.
The latest order means the SC has “forthwith” suspended temporary licences issued by the police for sale of firecrackers pursuant to the order of September 12. The order assumes significance as the court observed that “the air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby” due to the adverse effects of bursting of fire crackers.
A bench headed by Justice A K Sikri also observed that the November 11, 2016 order suspending the licences “should be given one chance to test itself” to see if it would have a positive effect, particularly during Diwali. Last year, the court had suspended all licenses permitting the sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail within the territory of NCR till further orders.
“This order prevailed during the year but the impact and effect of this order remains to be tested on Diwali days,” the bench said. “Going by these considerations, we are of the opinion that the judgment dated September 12, 2017 passed by this court should be made effective only from November 1, 2017.
“To put it clearly, though we are not tweaking with the various directions contained in the order dated September 12, 2017, the effect of that order would not be given during this Diwali and, therefore, we are making it effective only from November 1, 2017,” the court said.
In 2005, the SC had directed that there should be a complete ban on bursting sound-emitting firecrackers between 10 PM and 6 AM.
The court stated that adverse effects of firecrackers during Diwali had led to the closing of schools in Delhi last year and the authorities were compelled to take various measures on emergent basis when faced with ‘health emergency’ situation. A dense blanket of smog had engulfed the city after the night of fireworks on October 30 last year.
Traders urge Govt to file review petition in SC on firecracker ban
In the view of the latest development, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a traders’ body, called upon the government to file a review petition before the Supreme Court on its order banning the sale of firecrackers. Issuing a statement, the CAIT said conducting business of firecrackers is a legitimate activity protected under the Constitution of India giving ‘Right to Work’.
“The Supreme Court has imposed ban on sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR but there is no ban on bursting of crackers. Possibility of people buying crackers from other states and bursting them in Delhi-NCR cannot be ruled out. The distinction between Delhi traders and traders from the rest of India seems to be unjustified,” CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said.
Experts welcome SC’s order
Welcoming the Supreme Court’s order, experts said a sustained focus on tackling the menace is the need of the hour. “It is a welcome move. The air of Delhi is anyway saturated with pollutants at this time of the season as paddy stubble burning starts and temperature drops. Diwali fireworks only compund the problem,” Bhure Lal, chairman, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) said.
“The ban would ensure that the levels of air pollutants do not reach as high a limit as they did last year around Diwali. With meteorological conditions not being favourable for dispersing dust and particulate matter in a short interval, the regulation is a step in the right direction,” Ajay Mathur, director general of TERI, said.
Greenpeace India also joined the bandwagon in welcoming the SC decision, saying the verdict might provide some relief from the episodic air pollution spikes in the city in October. “However, the pollution levels in north India are multiple times higher than the national standards throughout the winter months, hence we also need to look at a stricter, comprehensive and time-bound action plan to address all sources of air pollution across the country,” it said in a statement.
Shopkeepers vent anger, dismay at the SC’s order banning sale of firecrackers
The decision to put a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers elicited angry reactions from shopkeepers, who were expecting to cash in on during the festive season. According to shopkeepers in Sadar Bazar and Jama Masjid, their Diwali will go up in smoke with losses running into crores.
“All dealers across NCR have been affected. The ban was imposed in 2016 last year and was lifted temporarily around 20 days back. Now, what will be do with the old stock? Crackers worth crores will go waste,” said Amit Jain, who sells firecrackers in Jama Masjid.
“Ban nuclear weapons, not crackers,” said one shopkeeper in Sadar Bazar. “The Supreme Court’s job is to regulate not ban,” added another who had set up shop close by. “They have banned Diwali in Delhi,” said a third.
Threatening to go on strike, shopkeepers in Sadar Bazar insisted that they won’t abide by the order. “We can’t sell in shops so we will sell on the pavement if nothing works out,” Chhabra said, addressing a crowd that had gathered near his shop. “This is not child’s play. They have revoked the old ban only to bring it again. What do we do with these crackers that we bought,” he added.
With inputs from PTI