The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR till November 1, 2017 in a bid to test whether a Deepavali without firecrackers this year will have a “positive effect” on the health of citizens and a steadily deteriorating air quality.
A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Sapre and Ashok Bhushan reverted to its November 2016 decision to suspend sales of firecrackers “to test itself to find out whether there would be a positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Deepavali period.”
“There is virtually a consensus in society that crackers should not be burnt during Deepavali, which can be celebrated with equal fervour by various other means as well...We have the direct evidence of deterioration of air quality at alarming levels, which happens every year. As already pointed out above, burning of these firecrackers during Deepavali 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 Deepavali,” the court reasoned in its 20-page judgment. But the court said its September 12, 2017 decision — saying a total ban on firecrackers’ sale in Delhi NCR is too “radical a step” and a graded, gradual approach to a complete ban should be adopted — would be effective from November 1.
“We are not tweaking with the various directions contained in the orders dated September 12, 2017, the effect of that order would not be given during this Deepavali and, therefore, we are making it effective only from November 01, 2017. We are conscious of the fact that after the said order was passed, the police may have issued temporary licences. Accordingly, those are suspended forthwith so that there is no further sale in Delhi and NCR.”
“Further, orders in this behalf can be passed on assessing the situation that would emerge after this Deepavali season,” the court held.
The judgment came on petitions challenging the September 12 modification of the November 2016 ban on sale of firecrackers.
Perusing records, the Bench pointed to the various efforts made by the government, media and civil society to create awareness of the harms of bursting firecrackers, especially on children. It said the adverse effects of burning of crackers during Deepavali have been witnessed year after year. The air quality deteriorates abysmally and the city chokes. It leads to closing the schools and the authorities are compelled to take various measures on emergent basis, when faced with a “health emergency”.
“This very situation had occurred on the very next morning after Deepavali in the year 2016. It 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 Deepavali days,” the court observed.
The judgment said the September 12 verdict modifying the ban on sale of firecrackers was taken without the knowledge of the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) consistent stand for the past 20 years that sulphur in fireworks should not be permitted.
“Sulphur on combustion produces sulphur-dioxide and the same is extremely harmful to health. The CPCB has stated that between 9 p.m. to midnight on Deepavali day, the levels of sulphur-dioxide content in the air is dangerously high. Moreover, all the authorities were unanimous in their view that crackers should only be burst in designated places. Also the CPCB had specifically stated that joined crackers should be banned by way of their letter dated November 04, 1996 to the Commissioner of Police. Neither the CPCB nor the Delhi Police divulged this fact to this court,” the Bench observed.