Supreme Court bans fire crackers except green crackers or crackers with reduced emission. Joined firecrackers, series crackers or laris also banned. e-commerce websites, including Flipkart, Amazon etc., also banned from online sales
ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2587 (2018) (10) SC
The judgment was made in a Writ Petition filed on behalf of three infants (2 children were 6 month old while one was fourteen months old), who are made petitioners in this writ petition.
The petition had been filed through their fathers, who were concerned about the health of their children as they feel that due to the alarming degradation of the air quality, leading to severe air pollution in the city of Delhi they may encounter various health hazards. Poor, very poor or severe air quality/air pollution affects all citizens, irrespective of their age.
The petitioners had prayed for direction to the Govt. to take possible measures for checking the pollution by stricking at the causes of the pollution, which includes seasonal crop burning, indiscriminate dumping of dust/malba and other pollutants, etc. The prayer also included banning the use, in any form, of firecrackers, sparkles and minor explosives, in any form, during festivals or otherwise.
Government of India, Ministry of Environment had filed an affidavit stating that it had consulted with the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) regarding concrete solutions and short-term measures to be adopted to tackle the pollution problem which occurs due to firecrackers during Diwali.
Based on those suggestions, the Ministry presented the following short-term measures/actions which it proposed to tackle the pollution problem due to firecrackers during forthcoming Diwali in November 2018:
1. To address issue of high contents of unburnt material or partially combusted material due to usage of poor quality of raw material, Raw Material Characterisation Facilities shall be established to maintain quality of the raw materials in gun powder and flash powder as per specifications of PESO. Testing of raw materials shall be initiated at CSIR – Kaliswari Joint Facility or PESO or any of the other manufacturer with requisite facilities.
2. Use of Reduced Emission firecrackers (Improved crackers) – (a) Avoidance of use of ash as desiccant or filler materials in crackers for reduction in particulate mater by 15-20%. These can be implemented subject to approval by PESO, and (b) usage of charcoal meeting specifications of explosives and pyrotechnics as prescribed by PESO.
3. Use of Reduced Emission firecrackers (Green crackers: Safe water and air sprinklers (SWAS) – Low emission sound and light emitting functional crackers with PM reduction by 30-35% and significant reduction in NOx and SO2 due to in-situ water generation as dust suppressant and low cost due to usage of low cost oxidants. These can be implemented subject to approval by PESO.
4. PESO will ensure fireworks with permitted chemicals only to be purchased/possessed/sold/used during Diwali and shall test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like lithium/arsenic/antimony/lead/ mercury. PESO will ensure suspension of the licenses of manufacturers of such fireworks items and appropriate disposal of such stock.
5. PESO will ensure that only those crackers whose decibel (sound) level are within the limits are allowed in the market and will ensure to take action by suspending the licenses of the manufacturers on such violations and disposal of such lots.
6. Diwali data of 2017 shows that average PM2.5 was 604 ug/m3, whereas, Aluminum and Barium in PM2.5 were 159 ug/m3 (about 4 times of AAQCVs) wand 35 ug/m3 (about 9 times of AAQCVs) respectively. Iron was well within the prescribed limits. Aluminum is used as fuel in fireworks in and to give white brilliant sparkle. Ba is added to give only attractive green colour which is not essential for pyrotechnics. Aluminum may cause dermatitis and having bioaccumulation potential in case of long exposure. Ba salts emit poisonous gas causing respiratory problem in short-term exposure too and may have other health complications in long-term exposure. Therefore, as immediate measure, baning of Barium salts in fireworks may be considered. PESO may be asked to review the chemical composition of fireworks, particularly reducing Aluminum content.
7. CPCB and respective State Pollution Control Boards/ Pollution Control Committees (SPCBs/PCCs) of the States and Union Territories shall carry out short-term monitoring in their cities for 14 days (commencing from 7 days prior to Diwali and ending 7 days after Diwali) for the parameters namely, Aluminum, Barium, Iron apart from the regulatory parameters against the short-term Ambient Air Quality Criteria Values (AAQCVs) proposed by CPCB with regard to bursting of firecrackers. 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 Aluminum, Barium and Iron used in the manufacture of firecrackers.
8. The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or laris) may be banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems.
9. Major Indian cities may explore the option of community firecracking with strict time restriction as adopted in some countries. Other restriction that can be explored include – bursting of firecrackers may be allowed only in the areas/fields pre-identified and predesignated by respective State Governments.
10. Extensive public awareness campaigns shall be taken up by the Central Government/State Governments/ Schools/Colleges informing the public about the harmful effects of firecrackers.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the aforesaid suggestions strive a nice balance between the two competing interests. We accept the aforesaid measures as suggested by the Union of India and direct the Union of India and other concerned authorities to implement the same with immediate effect.
In view thereof, the Hon’ble Supreme Court issued the following specific directions:
(i) The crackers with reduced emission (improved crackers) and green crackers, as mentioned in Suggestion Nos. II and III above only would be permitted to be manufactured and sold.
(ii) As a consequence, production and sale of crackers other than those mentioned in Suggestion Nos. II and III is hereby banned.
(iii) 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.
(iv) The sale shall only be through licensed traders and it shall be ensured that these licensed traders are selling those firecrackers which are permitted by this order.
(v) No e-commerce websites, including Flipkart, Amazon etc., shall 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, in that eventuality, orders of monetary penalties as well.
(vi) Barium salts in the fireworks is also hereby banned.
(vii) PESO is directed to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly reducing Aluminum content, and shall submit its report in respect thereof within a period of two weeks from today. For undertaking this exercise, PESO would also associate FRDC.
(viii) Even those crackers which have already been produced and they do not fulfill the conditions mentioned in Suggestion Nos. II and III above will not be allowed to be sold in Delhi and NCR.
(ix) PESO will ensure fireworks with permitted chemicals only to be purchased/possessed/sold/used during Diwali and all other religious festivals, of any religion whatsoever, and other occasions like marriages, etc. It shall test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like Lithium/Arsenic/ Antimony/Lead/Mercury.
(x) PESO will ensure suspension of the licenses of manufacturers of such fireworks items and appropriate disposal of such stock
(xi) PESO will ensure that only those crackers whose decibel (sound) level are within the limits are allowed in the market and will ensure to take action by suspending the licenses of the manufacturers on such violations and disposal of such lots. To add to it, as mentioned in the order dated September 12, 2017, the directions issued and restrictions imposed in the order passed by this Court on July 18, 2005 in Noise Pollution (V) shall continue to be in force.
(xii) Direction Nos. 4 to 9 and 11 contained in the order dated September 12, 2017 shall continue to operate and are reiterated again.
(xiii) Extensive public awareness campaigns shall be taken up by the Central Government/State Governments/Schools/Colleges informing the public about the harmful effects of firecrackers.
(xiv) On Diwali days or on any other festivals like Gurpurab etc., when such fireworks generally take place, it would strictly be from 8:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. only. On Christmas even and New Year eve, when such fireworks start around midnight, i.e. 12:00 a.m., it would be from 11:55 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. only.
(xv) The Union of India, Government of NCT of Delhi and the State Governments of the NCR would permit community firecracking only (for Diwali and other festivals etc. as mentioned above), wherever it can be done. For this purpose, particular area/fields would be pre-identified and predesignated by the concerned authorities. This exercise shall be completed within a period of one week from today so that the public at large is informed about the designated places one week before Diwali. The areas designated now for the purpose of Diwali shall be valid for community firecracking on other occasions/festivals as well, as mentioned above. Even for marriages and other occasions, sale of improved crackers and green crackers is only permitted.
Insofar as other States are concerned, an endeavour shall be made by them also to explore the feasibility of community firecracking. However, it is made clear that Direction No. (xiv) pertaining to the duration within which fireworks can take place on all such occasions would be applicable throughout India. Similarly, Direction No. (xiii) for extensive public awareness campaigns is also a pan India direction
(xvi) All the official respondents, and particularly the Police, shall ensure that fireworks take place only during the designated time and at designated places, as mentioned above. They shall also ensure that there is no sale of banned firecrackers. In case any violation is found, the Station House Officer (SHO) of the concerned Police Station of the area shall be held personally liable for such violation and this would amount to committing contempt of the Court, for which such SHO(s) would be proceeded against.
(xvii) CPCB and respective State Pollution Control Boards/ Pollution Control Committees (SPCBs/PCCs) of the States and Union Territories shall carry out short-term monitoring in their cities for 14 days (commencing from 7 days prior to Diwali and ending 7 days after Diwali) for the parameters namely, Aluminum, Barium, Iron apart from the regulatory parameters against the short-term Ambient Air Quality Criteria Values (AAQCVs) proposed by CPCB with regard to bursting of firecrackers. 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 Aluminum, Barium and Iron used in the manufacture of firecrackers.
However the Hon’ble Supreme Court clarified that the discussion pertaining to the arguments based on Article 19(1)(g), Article 25 as well as the argument of loss of substantial revenue and unemployment, in cases the manufacture and sale of the firecrackers is totally banned, is prima facie and it had not given any conclusive determination.