After analyzing various factors involved in the deterioration of air quality and unhealthy effects thereto, particularly upon the advent of the winter season, the Bench of Hon’ble Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Sapre and Ashok Bhushan of the Supreme Court of India in the case of Arjun Gopal & Others Vs Union of India & Others (IA NO. 92862 OF 2017 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 728 OF 2015) dated October 9, 2017 imposed suspension on the sale of the firecrackers till November 1, 2017.
The present judgement arose consequential to the petitions filed against the orders of the Supreme Court dated September 12, 2017, modifying the sale of fire-crackers. The order of the Court dated September 12, 2017, lifted the suspension on permanent licenses, thereby, permitting them to exhaust their stock of fireworks in Delhi-NCR and putting such licencees to notice for Dussehra and Diwali in 2018 restricting them to possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017 and that this will substantially reduce over next couple of years. The Court while assessing the dire need of improving the air quality, considered it appropriate to adopt a graded and balanced approach, which is necessary and would reduce and gradually eliminate air pollution caused due to cracker bursting.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court while reiterating the November 2016 decision suspended the temporary licenses that was issued by the police after the passing of the order dated September 12, 2017, in order to prevent further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR
The Court made the following observations while arriving at its decision:
- Taking into account the poor environmental conditions witnessed last year where pollution levels rose at an alarming level making Delhi the most polluted city in the world, the Court held that though, the bursting of firecrackers was not the sole cause resulting in such high degree of pollution, but it was a major contributing element for the same.
- The Court acknowledged the efforts made by Government (Ministry of Environment, Government of India as well as Delhi Government), Media, NGOs and various other groups to create awareness amongst the general public about the ill-effects of bursting of these crackers.
- The Court recognized the stand taken by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) that Sulphur in fireworks should not be permitted as Sulphur on combustion produces Sulphur Dioxide and the same is extremely harmful to health. The CPCB also stated that between 9:00 pm to midnight on Diwali day the levels of Sulphur Dioxide content in the air is dangerously high.
- The Court concluded that the order suspending the licences should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly during the Diwali period. In considering the adverse effects of burning of crackers leading to the depreciation of the air quality deteriorates abysmally and gives rise to severe “health emergency” situations every year post Diwali in the year 2016, the Court had passed the order dated November 11, 2016 but it’s the impact remains to be tested during Diwali days.
- The Court held that the directions issued under the order dated September 12, 2017 passed by the Court should be made effective only from November 01, 2017 i.e. post Diwali, thus delaying its enforcement.
Response by the Society
The aforesaid decision received warm welcome from various strata of the society.
Many doctors have appreciated the decision and explained the damaging impact of the increased pollution levels caused due to the bursting of crackers. The accelerated quantity of particulate matter in the air causes various problems like breathlessness, coughing fit, chest tightness, asthma, pulmonary disease, rhinitis and pneumonia.
Environmentalists, elderly citizens and students have also shown enthusiasm towards the decision considering it beneficial in the longer run.
Even religious institutions have supported the decision and promoted the spread of the thought of not bursting crackers on the pretext of linking them with the traditions of the festivals.
Although the Supreme Court has come forward with a pragmatic approach with the intention to control and reduce the pollution caused by restricting the bursting of crackers of festivals like Diwali, the move remains incomplete as the aforesaid order merely prevents the sale of crackers and does not bring within the ambit of its decision, the prohibition on their bursting which causes pollution. The Court explained the hardships which may be encountered to monitor and prevent the burning of crackers by the people.
More stringent actions should be taken to prevent causing of pollution by burning of crackers which not only contaminates the environment making it unfit for all forms of life but also creates noise which may increase palpitations among humans as well as animals. The Environmental law regime enshrines the polluter pays principle which imposes liability on the person polluting the environment to compensate for the damage caused and thus return the environment to its original state. Strict measures should be imposed upon those who cause pollution including those burning crackers.
Other allied problems associated with the burning of crackers include the generation of a lot of trash and the shops selling them remain vulnerable to fire which results in major injuries, loss of life and damage to property.
Despite numerous efforts being made by the Government, Media, NGOs and like campaigns, it remains the indispensable responsibility of the individuals to understand the detrimental effect being caused on the environment by cracker burning. It is essential not only to comply with the fundamental duty as prescribed by the Constitution under Article 51-A (g) to have compassion to their surrounding environment but also to respect the moral duty that vests towards the protection of the mother nature thereby making it a better place to live.