Verdict: The Supreme Court Monday directed the government to suspend all temporary licenses that were granted to sell fire crackers in the national capital region (NCR) till 1 November.
The order by a three-judge bench comes barely a month after the court had allowed traders to sell their existing stock, modifying its 2016 ruling ordering a blanket ban on sale of firecrackers in NCR on the grounds that it affected public health.
Context: In 2015, a case alleging infringement of the fundamental right to clean air was filed on behalf of three infants, seeking wide-ranging reliefs against the use of fireworks (including fire crackers), prevention of harmful crop burning, dumping of ‘malba’, and other further steps towards environmental purity.
Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayan, whose son was one of the petitioners, argued the case for the infants before the apex court. Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Sapre and Ashok Bhushan formed the bench to hear the case.
Legal questions for consideration
What is the legal basis for the ban on sale of firecrackers?
The court directed the central government to suspend the licences under the Explosive Rules, 2008, framed under the Explosives Act, 1884, on grounds of public health. It has discussed this in detail in the 2016 ruling as well.
Why did the court ban the sale of firecrackers, particularly around Diwali?
The court took into account a report that a day after Diwali, PM 2.5 levels in South Delhi were 26 times the safety levels indicated by the World Health Organisation. While dictating the order, the court said in an oral observation that this ban will test whether firecrackers have any major impact on air quality during Diwali. The court also said that last year, the capital was ‘smogged’ into an environmental emergency of unseen proportions.
The court was also conscious of the ban potentially impacting cultural practices.
Impact: While the sale of firecrackers will directly impact traders, it is to be seen if there will be a significant change in air quality around Diwali this year. Since bringing crackers in from surrounding areas and bursting them in NCR is still a possibility, the issue is sure to come up again before the court.
Watch Apurva Vishwanath and Sanya Dhingra discuss the firecracker sale ban and what it means:
1. MC Mehta v Union of India- 1998 (8) SCC 648 (Case that directed plying of CNG buses in NCR)
2. Arjun Gopal v Union of India – W.P.(C) No.-000728 of 2015