New Delhi: Refusing to impose a blanket ban on bursting of firecrackers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the use of only green firecrackers with reduced emission and decibel levels during all religious festivals.
In its verdict on a petition filed on behalf of three infants, a bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan specified that on Diwali, firecrackers could be burst only between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The bench also provided that firecrackers would be allowed between 11.55 p.m. and 12.30 a.m. on Christmas and New Year while banning the bursting of firecrackers not conforming to the green norms. The ban would be in force throughout the year. These conditions would also be applicable to marriage festivities.
The court also prohibited the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or ‘laris’) and specified that e-commerce websites should not accept any online orders and effect online sales.
“Any such e-commerce companies found selling crackers online will be hauled up for contempt of court and the court may also pass orders of monetary penalties,” it said.
The court said that authorities in Delhi would identify common community areas for the bursting of firecrackers and ensure awareness among people about it. It also recommended that other states should also explore the feasibility of community firecracking.
The court directed police station chiefs to be personally responsible for ensuring the compliance of its order.
The bench asked the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly for reducing the aluminium content and submit its report within two weeks.
PESO is the nodal organisation to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum.
The bench asked the PESO to ensure that only fireworks with permitted chemicals are sold and possessed during Diwali and other religious festivals as well as occasions such as marriages.
PESO has also been asked to test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like lithium, arsenic, antimony, lead and mercury and ensure suspension of the licenses of manufacturers of such fireworks items and appropriate disposal of such stock.
The court also asked the Centre and state governments as well as educational institutions to carry out extensive public awareness campaigns about the harmful effects of firecrackers.
The bench asked the Central and State Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees to carry out short-term monitoring for 14 days before and after Diwali for parameters like aluminium, barium, iron apart from the regulatory parameters.
“This will help in generation of data on pollution caused by the bursting of firecrackers and would be helpful for regulation and control quantity of aluminium, barium and iron used in the manufacture of firecrackers,” it said.
The court said it adopeted a balanced approach providing a reasonable and adequate solution.
“When the picture becomes clearer after the requisite studies/research, more stringent measures can be adopted in future if the situation so warrants,” said the bench.
While the Central Pollution Control Board described the order as a “balanced one”, lawyers pressing for a complete ban on firecrackers said the court order would be difficult to implement for practical reasons.
Filed on behalf of two six-month old and one fourteen-month old infant, the petition pleaded for banning the use of firecrackers, sparklers and minor explosives, in any form, during festivals or otherwise.