In a historic decision, the National Green Tribunal on 09.11.2020 has directed a complete ban on sale or use of firecrackers between 10-30 November in all cities and towns across the country having “poor” ambient air quality, whereas restricted use of green crackers in cities with “moderate” ambient air quality to two hours. The ambient air quality will be calculated based on the data from November 2019.
In another matter coming from the Calcutta HC, the Supreme Court shared a similar view, when the vacation bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee refused to interfere with the decision of Calcutta High Court regarding ban on the sale and use of firecrackers in West Bengal for Diwali, Kali Puja and other festivals. Though the Court recognised the importance of festivals in Indian culture, it stressed that it cannot be weighed against the preservation of life in this pandemic.
In view of the current pandemic, the Court ordered that there would be no usage, display or bursting of firecrackers in any form during Kali Puja, Diwali celebrations and all the festivals thereafter. The matter was not only pertaining to firecrackers but the general conduct of the upcoming festivals, wherein the courts laid down a general list of guidelines to be followed. Recognising the losses faced by those involved in the firecracker industry, the Court relied on the Bentham principle, i.e a small number of persons may have to suffer, for the greater good of greater numbers. But, the Court directed the State government to take appropriate measures to compensate those affected by this decision.
In other parts of the country, Rajasthan High Court refused to interfere with the decision of State government to ban firecrackers, stressing that 'the right of a person to live a life is at a higher pedestal than the right to earn a livelihood'. The Telangana High Court too took a similar stand. Both the orders have been challenged before the Supreme Court.
The decisions by judicial authorities have invoked backlash from various Hindu organisations and groups who view this as a deliberate attack on their fundamental right to practice their religion, as bursting crackers is an important component of Diwali. Many people are failing to view these decisions in the light of the current situation, which have been taken for the greater good of the people. Active contribution in increase of pollution in any form would lead to violation of Article 21 of the vulnerable groups who are more susceptible to this virus.
These orders ought to be welcomed in high spirits, however like most bold decisions, implementation of the directions remains an issue. In the last two days, most cities have seen usual amounts of fire-cracker usage and sale, whereas no mechanism is set in motion to bring these directions into execution through the local self governments.
We hope everyone will enjoy this festival from the safety of your homes and ensure self monitoring and execution of these directions as responsible citizens!