23 Sep 2023 5:57 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday (22.09.2023) rejected an application filed by an association of firecracker manufacturers (TANFAMA) to include reduced quantities of barium nitrate in firecrackers. In 2019, the Apex Court had directed that barium salts must not be used in firecrackers. In 2021, the Court had reiterated this ban.TANFAMA had approached the Apex Court seeking a direction to allow...
The Supreme Court on Friday (22.09.2023) rejected an application filed by an association of firecracker manufacturers (TANFAMA) to include reduced quantities of barium nitrate in firecrackers. In 2019, the Apex Court had directed that barium salts must not be used in firecrackers. In 2021, the Court had reiterated this ban.
TANFAMA had approached the Apex Court seeking a direction to allow the usage of reduced quantities of Barium Nitrate in firecrackers as suggested by CSIR – NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) and approved by PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization) and MoEF (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change). With the new formulation, the emission of particulate matter would be reduced by 30% and would hence qualify as a green cracker, the applicant had claimed. An application was also filed for manufacture of joined crackers, which has also been banned by the Court previously.
The Apex Court said that allowing the application would be a retrograde step, compared to the steps taken by the Court so far to curb the deleterious effects of firecrackers containing barium. The Court also observed that there was scope for further reduction of emissions and that more research may be required to come up with new formulations.
A bench comprising of Justices AS Bopanna and MM Sundresh rejected both applications:
“..at this stage allowing the use of Barium Nitrate merely because it is indicated that the formulation as a whole would be 30 per cent less polluting would in fact be a retrograde step as compared to the effort that has been put in by various orders of this Court. Therefore, at this stage, we are of the opinion that the prayer is not liable to be granted. Further, the same would also apply to the request which was made on behalf of some of the manufacturers to manufacture joined crackers.”
The Court observed that various orders had been passed by the Court in the past, disallowing the use of barium nitrate due to the high levels of air pollution. The Court had also taken into consideration the increasing number of patients suffering due to exposure to toxic gases, particulate matter and metallic compounds especially during festival season.
Sr. Adv. Shyam Diwan appearing for the firecracker manufacturers argued that the new formulation containing barium would be classified as green crackers and has been approved by PESO. It was contended that Barium Nitrate, which is an inorganic compound is used around the world and is the most safe and stable oxidizer. It was also argued that no country in the world has banned the use of Barium Nitrate in firecrackers. However, the Amicus Curiae Sr. Adv. Gopal Shankarnarayan pointed out the serious health hazards of barium nitrate during the course of his submissions.
The Court observed that CSIR – NEERI and PESO are conducting periodic review of the new formulations for identifying new oxidizers and fuels for further minimizing emissions. The Court was of the view, that there is scope for further reduction of the use of oxidizers and further reduction in emission.
“..there is scope for further reduction of use of oxidizers which would help further reduce the percentage of particulate matter. It is in that view we are of the opinion that further efforts are necessary rather than being satisfied with what has been achieved thus far. The manufacturers in any event would manufacture the other permissible variety without barium.” The Court observed.
The Apex Court also stated that CSIR-NEERI, PESO and MoEF need to consider the health effects of the particulate matter released by these crackers, even with formulations that guarantee reduced emissions.
“Though the experts namely the PESO has indicated the reduction of pollution to the extent of 30 per cent, the use of Barium Nitrate as an ingredient is also seen in such formulation. Apart from the fact as to whether there is reduction in the percentage of particulate matter the question that begs an answer is as to whether the existence of the particulate matter in the remaining portion would continue to be a health hazard, more particularly in an area wherein the air quality is already polluted causing respiratory problem is also an aspect which is to be examined by CSIR-NEERI, PESO and MoEF in consultation with the experts in this field. That apart an effort is also required to be made to work out a formulation dehors such contents, or for further reduction of PM. This would require continued research.” The Apex Court said.
The writ petition was filed in 2015 by Arjun Gopal, Aarav Bhandari and Zoya Rao Bhasin, who were then aged between 6 months and 14 months, through their legal guardians, praying for urgent measures to bring down the fatal pollution level in the national capital, Delhi.
The petitioners had sought for a complete ban on use of firecrackers, sparklers and explosives during festivals.
The Apex Court has since 2015 passed several interim orders while considering the petition.
In October 2018, Supreme Court had ruled against imposing complete ban on firecrackers but said that only less polluting green crackers can be sold, that too only through licensed traders. The Court had banned online sale of firecrackers, restraining e-commerce websites from carrying out its sale. The Court had also fixed duration for bursting of crackers and ordered that crackers can be burst only in designated areas.
On 29th October 2021, a bench comprising Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna had issued a series of directions to ensure the strict implementation of its earlier orders banning the use of barium-based chemicals in fire crackers and allowing only the use of "green crackers". The bench had also directed the States/Union Territories to see that its directions are strictly complied with in its true spirit and in toto. It also said that any lapse on part of State Governments/State Agencies and Union Territories shall be viewed seriously.
Case Title: Arjun Gopal Vs. Union Of India, W.P.(C) No. 728/2015 and connected matters
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 816
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