Asks Delhi govt to suspend all temporary licences granted to traders.
New Delhi: Taking a serious note of the deteriorating air quality in the national capital region (NCR), the Supreme Court, on Monday, slapped a ban on the sale of crackers for this Diwali and asked the government to suspend all temporary licences granted for the same.
A three-judge bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Sapre and Ashok Bhushan restored the ban imposed on November 11, 2016, after Diwali last year. Following petitions from manufacturers and selling agents, the court had lifted the ban on September 12 and allowed the sale of crackers for this year. The ban has now been restored.
The court suspended all such licenses as permit sale of fireworks — wholesale and retail — within the territory of NCR. The suspension shall remain in force till further orders from this court. No such licenses shall be granted or renewed till further orders.
The bench said that the September 12 order of temporarily lifting the stay and permitting sale of firecrackers would be effective from November 1. Only licensed shops will be allowed to do business. Diwali is on October 19 and the order effective immediately means that no firecrackers will be available for purchase before the festival.
Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who efficaciously argued for restoring the ban, told this newspaper that the ban would include even online sale. This would mean that nobody could get crackers online from a manufacturer or a dealer from Sivakasi as the Explosives Rules prohibits such sale. The dealer who gets the licence to sell in Tamil Nadu would not have the licence to sell crackers in Delhi either directly or indirectly as all licences are suspended and sale banned forthwith, he said.
In its order, the bench pointed out that as the ban was imposed last year after Diwali, the NCR did not have the benefit to test air quality without the bursting of crackers.
“We are of the view that the order suspending the licences should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Diwali period,” it said.
The judges said that insofar as the adverse effects of burning crackers during Diwali are concerned, those have been witnessed year after year. The air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby. It leads to closing of schools and the authorities are compelled to take various measures on emergent basis when faced with “health emergency” situations.
This very situation had occurred on the very next morning after Diwali in the year 2016. It resulted in the passing of 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 Diwali days.
Going by these considerations, the bench said, “We are of the opinion that the judgment (allowing sale of crackers) dated September 12, 2017, passed by this court should be made effective only from November 1, 2017. It noted that the ban was imposed last year as snapping the supply chain of fireworks was considered to be the more practical way of addressing the menace instead of banning the burning of crackers by individuals as it would have been difficult to monitor and enforce the ban on burning of crackers by the citizenry.
Acting on a petition filed by three toddlers, Arjun Gopal and two others, the court last year noted that campaigns are held in schools wherein children are discouraged to burn fireworks. Thus, there is virtually a consensus in the society that crackers should not be burnt during Diwali, which can be celebrated with equal fervour by various other means as well. The irony is that when causes are brought in the court, there is resistance from certain quarters.
It cannot be denied that there are adequate statutory provisions whereof aid can be taken to ban the sale of these crackers. It is one of the functions of the judges, in a democracy, to bridge the gap between law and society.