The Supreme Court has banned the sale of fireworks in Delhi during the upcoming Diwali festival, hoping to prevent the usual spike in toxic air pollution levels that accompany the holiday.The ban was overturned after a challenge by fireworks manufacturers, but India’s highest court said on Monday it would remain in place until November to monitor whether air pollution levels would be substantially affected.

Though this decision has been appreciated by most of the people, but there are some issues which proves this decision illogical and taken in haste without any prior study.

Court’s Casual and inconsistent approach

This petition of seeking ban on firecrackers in NCR has been pending in the Supreme Court since 2015 but the court’s approach had been inconsistent on the issue. The first order to ban its sale was modified allowing limited sale and finally the ban was re-imposed this year during Diwali.

Lack of Credible Study

There is a gross inconsistency on the part of apex court, and that is because there is no credible and reliable study done so far by an Indian agency on adverse impact of bursting of firecrackers on environment and there are contradictory findings in the studies done by private agencies. The court, which had in 2015 turned down a plea to ban firecrackers during Diwali, had to intervene in light of alarming pollution level after 2016 Diwali and suspended all licenses of sellers of firecrackers.

“The entire Delhi-NCR region was smogged into an environmental emergency of unseen proportions,” court had said while justifying its interim order to ban firecrackers. It had also directed Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a study and file a report within three months on the harmful effects of the materials used in fireworks. The court had said that it would review its interim order after going through the report.

Unfortunately CPCB failed to comply with the given order as Firecrackers did not come within its jurisdiction and the task should be entrusted to some other government agency Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO). As the government agencies did not produce any credible and empirical study on the issue, the court was virtually forced to modify its ban order and allowed sale of firecrackers on September 12.

What is necessary now is to correlate air pollution with the sale and bursting of fireworks in Delhi and the NCR. There is no doubt that the air we breathe gets polluted with the bursting of fireworks. The extent of air pollution caused by bursting fireworks is not clear in the absence of empirical data – it could be severe or it could be marginal, but it is there,” the court said in its order.

It further added that it is astonishing that the CPCB has not conducted the study and prepared a report as directed. Apart from the fact that the CPCB has not conducted any study, even otherwise, no standards have been laid down by the CPCB which could give any indication of the acceptable and permissible limit of constituent metals or chemicals used in fireworks and released in the air, beyond which their presence would be harmful or dangerous.

In the meantime, Traders with temporary licenses on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking relaxation of the ban on the sale of firecrackers in the national capital and the NCR.

Lawyers for the petitioners told the apex court that after the lifting of the November 2016 ban on September 12 this year, they had bought firecrackers for sale but the October 9 ban had caused them harm.


Manish Sharma

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