SC allows States to fix two-hour duration to burst firecrackers on Diwali

It also clarifies that use of green crackers is mandatory only for National Capital Region.

Updated - October 30, 2018 08:00 pm IST

Published - October 30, 2018 12:58 pm IST - New Delhi

The plea said people in Tamil Nadu start celebrations with bursting of fire crackers in the early morning. R. Ashok

The plea said people in Tamil Nadu start celebrations with bursting of fire crackers in the early morning. R. Ashok

The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified an October 23 direction, which restricted the time for bursting crackers on Diwali and other religious festivals between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Instead, the top court said State governments can decide when people can burst crackers on festival day, provided the total time does not cross the two-hourmark. This means the authorities can stagger the time-slots for bursting crackersand even make it an hour in the morning and another in the night.

On October 23, the apex court had fixed a uniform slot for bursting crackers across the country.

That is, between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. during Diwali and other religious festivals. For Christmas and New Year, the judicially-approved time for bursting crackers is between 11.55 p.m. and 12.30 a.m.

Tuesday’s modifications came after the court seemed to agree with Tamil Nadu’s contention that restricting the time for bursting crackers to just two hours in the night would be a violation of religious rights of people in the southern parts of the country, where Diwali is celebrated in the morning.

“India being a Federal State is with different traditions and cultures. As far as celebrations relating to Diwali are concerned, each State or Sect has a separate set of beliefs, traditions and culture,” Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and advocate B. Vinodh Kanna, argued.

Justice Sikri said the court had made the time rule uniform for all faiths so that no accusatory finger is pointed at it. “We thought there should not be any allegation against us, that we are only making direction as far as one particular religion is concerned,” Justice Sikri explained.

When Mr. Naphade pointed out the differences between the way people from the north and south celebrate Diwali, Justice Sikri quipped: “when south Indians live in the north, they celebrate Diwali like in the north and when north Indians live in the south, they celebrate Diwali like in the south”.

Further, the court said its direction that only green crackers can be manufactured and sold is only applicable to Delhi and the National Capital Region areas. On October 23, the court had held that only green or improved crackers would be used in religious festivals and other occasions, including even weddings.

The ban on toxic crackers had come on the basis of a petition filed by two infants, a six-month-old and 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 had pleaded for their right to life.

However, firecracker manufacturers on Tuesday raised doubts in court about the viability of manufacturing and selling green crackers for Diwali this year. The festival is due in the first week of next month. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar submitted that the window was too short for completing safety tests and procedure under the Inflammable Substances Act of 1952 and certification by the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO).

The Bench posted the case on October 31 for passing orders on these aspects.

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