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Burst crackers only for 3 hours: Punjab & Haryana HC

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Division bench initiates suo moto proceedings after Supreme Court banned sale of firecrackers in NCR in view of deteriorating air quality.

Chandigarh: The Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday issued a slew of directions, restricting the bursting of firecrackers on Diwali. A division bench of justices A. K. Mittal and Amit Rawal ruled that people of Punjab, Haryana and the union territory of Chandigarh can burst crackers only for three hours — from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm — on 19 October.

The court directed the deputy commissioners and police heads to ensure strict compliance with these orders. The HC order comes in the wake of the Supreme Court ban on sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region in view of the deteriorating air quality.

The division bench had initiated suo moto proceedings on the issue Thursday. Treating it as a PIL, it declared inoperative all the temporary licences issued under the Explosives Act for Diwali this year.

Putting a cap on such licences, the court said the number of licences issued this year should be 20 per cent (one fifth) of the licences issued in 2016. Fresh temporary licences can now be issued only by deputy commissioners. The high court barred issuance of any permanent licences without the court’s permission.

The HC also restricted the sale and marketing of firecrackers to places specifically designated for the purpose by deputy commissioners.

It is for the first time that such directions have been issued in the region for Diwali. Earlier today, senior advocate Anupam Gupta, appointed as amicus curiae in the case, told the court that he would be pressing for a complete ban on firecrackers in the future, covering all religious festivals.

He said that the court need not wait for a Delhi-type “health emergency” to surface in the region and should take pre-emptive action. Referring to the 11 November, 2016 SC judgment imposing a complete ban in the NCR, (which was partially restored last week), Gupta said, “Legally, the high court can impose a complete ban on firecrackers today itself in exercise of its constitutional powers under Article 226. There is absolutely no impediment in the high court’s way to do so. Such a ban ought to be imposed by the high court for the future even if the Supreme Court did not extend the ban in NCR beyond Diwali.”

However, since the court had initiated suo moto proceedings on the eve of Diwali this year, he said, a complete immediate ban would be unfair and harsh, especially on small traders and shopkeepers who are already reeling under the impact of demonetisation and GST.

Gupta also handed over to the court a directive issued by the Punjab Pollution Control Board chairman K.S. Pannu to all deputy commissioners and municipal corporations for observing a ‘Green Diwali’.

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