The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed States other than Delhi to use their existing stocks of crackers for Diwali next month.
However, the Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan checked the enthusiasm by directing that only green crackers can be manufactured henceforth across the country. That means once the existing stocks are used up, no new polluting crackers can be made in the cracker factories.
The court has allowed Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and the adjoining southern States, which celebrate Diwali in the morning, to burst crackers for two hours in the day. The time-slots for bursting crackers can be staggered through the festival days, for instance like one hour in the morning and an hour in the night. The decision to finalise the time slots has been left to the respective State authorities.
The court, in its order on October 23, had fixed 8 pm to 10 pm as the time-slot for bursting crackers on religious festival days like Diwali uniformly across the country. Tamil Nadu had challenged the order , saying it violated its people right to religion protected under Article 25 of the Constitution.
As far as Delhi-NCR concerned, the court did not let down its rigour both in terms of the time-slot for bursting crackers, that is between 8 pm and 10 pm, and the mandatory manufacture and sale of green crackers for Diwali this year. The Bench refused to modify its October 23 order despite repeated requests from the firecracker manufacturing association, which pleaded to the court to allow them to produce and sell non-green crackers this year in NCR.
“You mean you want us to allow you to contaminate the air this year and then you may fall in line next year?” an unconvinced Justice Sikri asked the association.
The court refused to lift the pan-India ban on sale of crackers online through e-commerce websites. Any violation of this direction would lead to contempt of the apex court.
The October 23 order was based on petitions filed by a six-month-old and a 14-month-old, through their fathers in 2015. They had said the air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, has made Delhi a gas chamber. They pleaded for their right to life.
The court had banned the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or laris ), holding that they cause “huge air, noise and solid waste problems”. The sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders.
While the court made community bursting of crackers in pre-designated areas compulsory for Delhi-NCR, it urged other States to endeavour to attempt the welfare measure to reduce air pollution.
The court said the October 23 order was only a preliminary step and it would not shy away from imposing more stringent measures against firecrackers in the future “if the situation so warrants”.