'No blanket ban on firecrackers'; SC clarifies before Diwali
The Supreme Court on Monday set aside a Calcutta High Court order banning all firecrackers in West Bengal during the festive season. The SC said that it had allowed green crackers in all areas where the air quality is "moderate" and the state cannot be an exception. Earlier, the HC had banned the sale, purchase, and use of all firecrackers to curb air pollution.
Why does it matter?
- The SC's latest order reiterates that green firecrackers are allowed in all states and there can be no blanket ban across India.
- Firecrackers with barium salts are banned.
- The order comes ahead of Diwali, which is celebrated with firecrackers.
- The court also took note of concerns of the Calcutta HC regarding the absence of an enforcement mechanism for the controlled use of firecrackers.
Strengthen mechanism to stop misuse: SC
A vacation bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi clarified that its approval for green firecrackers applies to all states uniformly. "There cannot be a complete ban of firecrackers. Strengthen the mechanism to stop misuse," the bench orally observed. It asked the West Bengal government to ensure that banned firecrackers and related items are not imported into the state.
What else did SC say?
The Calcutta HC had imposed a blanket ban due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms to ensure that only green crackers are used, the SC noted. The HC had not provided the authorities an opportunity to submit the details about an enforcement mechanism, the state government argued. To this, the SC observed that the HC should have given such an opportunity.
'Unfounded apprehensions'; Bengal cites arrests log
"It is an unfounded apprehension on the part of the learned Calcutta High Court," argued Bengal's legal counsel Anand Grover. On the ban's enforcement, he said, "In 2018, 24 FIRs were registered and 46 were arrested. 2019, 22 FIRs were registered and 26 persons were arrested. 2020, 190 FIRs, 243 (arrests). 2021, till October 31, 7 FIRs were registered and 10 persons were arrested."
Petitioners cite past SC orders
The SC was hearing a petition by the Siliguri Firecrackers Association and certain firecracker dealers challenging the HC order. The petitioners argued that the SC has three orders and that the National Green Tribunal has two orders in this regard. It was also argued that the SC had reversed the Telangana HC's blanket ban on firecrackers last year.
Earlier orders allowed green crackers: Petitioners
The July and October SC orders had allowed the use of green crackers, despite noting the practical difficulties of ensuring that banned materials are not sold under green labels, the petitioners argued. The July order upheld a complete ban in areas with "poor" air quality.
HC's blanket ban was issued last week
The Calcutta HC had on Friday ordered a blanket firecracker ban in West Bengal till December 31 to curb air pollution during the upcoming festivities. The HC had ordered that wax and oil-based diyas should be used instead. It had observed that it would be very difficult for the police and law enforcement agencies to differentiate green and banned firecrackers.
Authorities liable: SC last week
The SC had observed last Friday that authorities will be held personally liable if banned firecrackers are being used. The bench had said that authorities lack the will and desire to act. The order had also noted that labels and verification mechanisms such as QR codes can be faked to pass off banned items as green crackers.