Kerala Temple Fire : Ban on use of high-decibel crackers

Thiruvananthapuram : Coming down heavily on the authorities for their failure to prevent the Paravur temple fireworks mishap, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday banned use of high-decibel crackers and fireworks display after sunset in places of worship across the state.

A division bench of Justices Thottatthil B Radhakrishnan and Anu Sivaraman passed the order on sitting judge Chidambaresh’s letter seeking the ban. The letter was suo motu registered as a writ petition in the wake of the Paravur temple mishap.

The court has, however, permitted use of colours and lights, but without sound, in festivals at night-time. The bench has also prohibited the use of firecrackers generating sound above 145 decibels during daytime. The court has further directed the police and civic authorities to enforce compliance of the provisions of the Explosives Act and other rules framed for preventing such tragedies. In case of violations, both the organizers and concerned officials will be held responsible.

 The court, however, expressed strong doubts about the current police investigation into the mishap and asked the state government to consider handing over the probe to a higher agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The court came down heavily on the police for not registering murder cases against the temple managing committee officials and the contractors responsible for the mishap. The court has directed Kollam district administration and the police to file separate affidavits on the issue.

The judges noted that the police were duty-bound to stop the fireworks as the display was held without permission of the concerned authorities. On the contrary, the police had helped the temple committee to organise the pyrotechnics display.

Earlier, the central government informed the court that the fireworks display was conducted in violation of rules. The solicitor general told the court that the organizers had flouted seven rules and avoided precautionary warnings. Meanwhile, Crime Branch Additional Director General of Police S Ananthakrishnan, who is heading the probe into the mishap, said that the

interrogation of the seven temple committee members had revealed that they had conducted competitive fireworks display by misguiding the police. Preliminary investigation has revealed that the crackers used in the display were made of banned chemicals. The methods used for the display were also a gross violation of the Explosives Rules 2008.

Sudarshan Kamal, Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, who visited the mishap site, said that the conduct of the display after midnight was also a violation of the Supreme Court ruling that it should be permitted only up to 10 pm. The organizers also did not adhere to the distance norms mandated by the rules. The Chief Controller of Explosives said that the gravity of the tragedy would have been lessened if they had maintained a safe distance as prescribed by the rules.

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