The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to issue a blanket ban on the sale and bursting of fireworks during Diwali and other festivals. However, it has put in place severe restrictions on when crackers can be burst, inviting criticism for ignoring regional sensitivities.
A Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan permitted the sale and manufacture of low-emission ‘green’ firecrackers and fixed a two-hour time period — 8 pm to 10 pm — to burst crackers on Diwali. It has fixed a time band for other festivals as well.
The court passed the order on writ petitions filed in September 2015 by Arjun Gopal and others, including a couple of toddlers, seeking a ban on the sale of firecrackers. The petitioners were concerned about increasing air pollution in Delhi, where they reside.
The court also banned the online sale of fireworks by portals such as Flipkart and Amazon. Additionally, it banned the use of barium salts in fireworks, and urged States to explore the feasibility of community bursting of crackers.
“The Supreme Court’s order is not very strict,” Vijay Panjwani, advocate of the Central Pollution Control Board, was quoted by an agency as saying. “We were expecting a complete ban, but that has not happened.”
Damp squib for Sivakasi
The small town of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, which manufactures fireworks worth over ₹8,000 crore annually, is likely to bear the brunt of this order. “We expect sales to drop by nearly 50 per cent,” said Rajasingh Chelladhurai, Managing Director, Jumbo Fireworks, a leading manufacturer in Sivakasi.
Around four lakh people are employed in the fireworks industry in Sivakasi.
The court also said that the permissible limit of sound and smoke will be approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation, which has a centre in Sivakasi.
In a way, the fire works industry is relieved. “We welcome the Supreme Court judgment for not issuing a blanket ban on bursting crackers. However, giving just two hours to celebrate is very less and counter-productive. There will be heavy sound and thick smoke as people will burst all the crackers purchased in those two hours, causing major pollution,” Chelladhurai said.
While the southern States celebrate Diwali in the morning, the northern ones do so at night. “We get up early early morning, have ‘oil bath’, wear new clothes and burst crackers. Every year, we start Diwali with a bang, but not this year. Kids will be highly disappointed and it will be very difficult to make them understand on the issue,” Chelladhurai added.
The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association will discuss the judgment among its members and authorities on filing a review petition in the Supreme Court, said its General Secretary K Mariappan.
“It is a positive news for the industry as there is no blanket ban on the sale of crackers. But the issue is whether the order is implementable. It will be difficult to force people in the South to change their tradition and burst crackers in the night,” he said.