SC modifies timing for bursting firecrackers on Diwali in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry; retains 2 hour cap

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its order which had fixed 8 PM to 10 PM as slot for bursting firecrackers on Diwali and other festivals, saying that authorities in states are at liberty to change the timings but the duration will not exceed two hours a day.

The apex court also said that its directions on “green crackers” was meant only for Delhi-NCR.

The court was hearing a plea by Tamil Nadu government which sought its nod for bursting of crackers on Diwali morning in accordance with the religious practices in the state. In its October 23 order, the court had ordered that bursting of firecrackers on Diwali and other festivals would be only from 8 PM to 10 PM.

A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan also made it clear that its October 23 direction allowing the manufacture and sale of only “green crackers”, which have low emission of light, sound and harmful chemicals, was meant for a Delhi-national capital region (NCR) and it was not applicable pan-India.

“The direction for green crackers was not for all the states. It was only for Delhi-NCR,” the bench observed and said it would pass a formal order Wednesday.

The bench was told by the counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu government that as per religious practices in south Indian states the bursting of firecrackers on Diwali was done in the morning and they should be given permission to burst crackers between 4.30 AM and 6.30 AM.

One of the advocates also said that in union territory of Puducherry, bursting of firecrackers on Diwali was done in the morning.

“We are going to change the timings,” the bench said.

While modifying its order on the issue of timing for bursting of firecrackers in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and states on south India, the bench made it clear that the “total time (for bursting of firecrackers) will not exceed two hours a day”.

The bench said this after the counsel appearing for Tamil Nadu urged the court to modify the timing slot and grant them permission for bursting of firecrackers in Diwali for one-and-a-half-hour each in morning as well as in evening.

The advocates appearing for firecrackers manufacturers told the bench that the apex court had never intended to order complete ban on bursting of firecrackers on Diwali but the composition of green crackers was not even finalised.

They said that in such a scenario, it would be akin to complete ban on firecrackers as green crackers would possibly come in the market only next year.

“The green crackers will come only in July 2019 and not before that. We are seeking some kind of modalities of regularisation so that it does not become complete ban this year,” one of the counsels said.

When the issue of timing was raised before the bench, the court asked, “Apart from Tamil Nadu and union territory of Puducherry, is there any other state where the timing will be different?”.

The counsel for cracker manufacturers said that in some south Indian states, firecrackers bursting on Diwali was done in the morning.

“Even in Delhi, people from south India are residing and they celebrate Diwali in the morning,” the lawyer said.

The lawyer also said that a lot of changes were required to be made in quality of crackers to make them green and it was impossible to do so within such a short span of time this year.

“If people from south India are in Delhi, they should celebrate Diwali as is done in Delhi. Similarly, of people from north India are in south, they should celebrate Diwali as it is done there in South India,” the bench observed.

Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, appearing for the petitioner on whose plea the October 23 order was passed, told the court that it had stopped short of imposing a complete ban on use of firecrackers and had said that balance has to be achieved. He referred to last year’s order of the apex court and said that as per the direction, no firecrakers could have been brought in Delhi after that order.

“This is not being done suddenly. The manufacturers were aware of it,” Shankarnarayanan said, adding, “From 2015, we do not have actual ban on firecrackers which is effecting our lungs and killing our children. The WHO (World Health Organisation) has said India is the most polluted country.”

The counsel appearing for the manufacturers said that they were not at all arguing that order passed by the apex court was wrong but they could not comply with the directions in the window given to them.

“We are as much concerned about the health of people,” the counsel said, adding that “people cannot be left to die like this”.

One of the counsel also raised the issue of ban on use of barium salt in firecrackers and said that without this material, no firecrackers could be made. However, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said that firecrackers could be made without using barium salt and he would file an affidavit in this regard.

Nadkarni said that barium salt was used for green sparkle in firecrackers and this has health implications on the health of people. The court asked Nadkarni to file an affidavit in this regard by Wednesday.

In its October 23 order, the apex court had carved out an exception in timing for bursting of firecrackers for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, saying crackers on these days could be burst between 11.55 pm and 12.30 am since the celebrations start at midnight.

It had said that noise and smoke emission limits of the crackers will have to be approved by Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization.

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