The Supreme Court on Tuesday lashed out at firecracker manufacturers for violating the spirit of its 2018 judgment banning toxic ingredients like barium in fireworks , saying the prime focus of the court is the “right to life of innocent people”.
Prima facie brushing aside the manufacturers’ contention that thousands of employees earn their livelihood in the industry, Justice M.R. Shah, for the Bench, retorted that “we have to balance between employment, unemployment and the right to life and health of citizens”.
“We cannot sacrifice the lives of many for a few. Our prime focus is the right to life of innocent people,” Justice Shah observed.
The case gains significance with the onset of the wedding season and festivals like Dasara and Dipavali.
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Joined crackers continue to be burst with impunity
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, for petitioner student Arjun Gopal, said “joined crackers” continue to be burst with impunity across the country despite the ban imposed on them by the apex court in a judgment on October 23, 2018.
“The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers [series crackers or laris] is hereby banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems,” the Supreme Court had directed the Centre in 2018.
Justice Shah seemed to agree with Mr. Sankaranarayanan.
“Everyday, everyday there is a violation in this regard... in religious processions, political rallies,” Justice Shah, accompanied by Justice A.S. Bopanna on the Bench, reacted.
Justice Shah observed that the court has to fix liability on the authorities in charge.
“Sometimes we have to fix liability. If the Police Commissioner is sedate about liability, only then all this will happen,” Justice Shah noted.
Senior advocate Atmaram Nadkarni, for the manufacturers, said they were following the directions of the court but individuals buy crackers separately and join them.
“If you buy 100 crackers and join them then it still is called manufacturing them. Why do you produce them in the first place?” the Bench asked.
Mr. Sankaranarayanan said many manufacturers continue to use toxic ingredients knowing that the court had banned them. He said children “whose nimble fingers are used to tie the knots on the firecrackers” are employed in these factories and exposed to the poison. “There is poison to start with and it ends in poisoning the air for innocents.”
He said the 2018 judgment had balanced employment concerns in the industry and the right to life of citizens by approving the government’s suggestions for “ green crackers ” and those with reduced emission. However, the authorities have turned a blind eye as toxic crackers flood the market even without the approval of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO).
The 2018 judgment had charged PESO with the task of reviewing the composition of crackers and check them for the presence of banned chemicals like lithium, arsenic, antimony, lead or mercury.
At one instance during the hearing, Mr. Sankaranarayanan mentioned that Mr. Nadkarni had, as Additional Solicitor General, appeared for the government in earlier hearings.
Mr. Nadkarni retorted that he was only doing his duty as a lawyer and officer of the court.
“Ultimately the court will decide,” he said. The hearing will continue on Wednesday.