7 Nov 2023 8:05 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (07.11.2023) clarified that its earlier directions against the use of barium and banned chemicals in firecrackers are applicable across the country, binding all states and not just the Delhi-National Capital Region.The Court made this clarification while hearing an application seeking directions to the State of Rajasthan to comply with the Apex Court's...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday (07.11.2023) clarified that its earlier directions against the use of barium and banned chemicals in firecrackers are applicable across the country, binding all states and not just the Delhi-National Capital Region.
The Court made this clarification while hearing an application seeking directions to the State of Rajasthan to comply with the Apex Court's orders regarding ban on barium crackers and minimising air and noise pollution during festive season. Saying that no fresh directions are needed, the Court directed the state of Rajasthan to take specific note of the previous orders and reiterated that its orders are binding on all states in the country.
"At this juncture, no specific order will be necessary in as much as this Court in the course of hearing the petitions has passed several orders, where steps have been indicated to minimise and avoid air as well as noise pollution. Hence the said orders will bind every state in the country, including the state of Rajasthan. Therefore, we make it clear that the state of Rajasthan would also take note of this and take all steps to minimize air and noise pollution, not only during the festival season, but even thereafter" a bench of Justice A S Bopanna and Justice M M Sundresh said in its order today.
In 2021, the Supreme Court had passed a slew of directions to ensure that banned chemicals are not used in crackers ahead of Diwali. The bench had also clarified that there is no total ban on firecrackers and that only those firecrackers were banned that contained barium salts. Green crackers are permissible following the directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2018.
In 2021, a bench comprising Justices MR Shah and AS Bopanna had held that that if it was found that any banned firecrackers are manufactured, sold and used in any particular area, the Chief Secretary of the concerned State(s), the Secretary (Homes) of the concerned State(s) and the Commissioner of Police of the concerned area, District Superintendent of Police of the concerned area and the SHO/Police Officer in-charge of the concerned police station would be held personally liable. The bench had 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.
"There seems to be a perception that your lordships orders are only restricted to Delhi-NCR, whereas your lordships have made it clear that it applies throughout the country" the counsel for the Applicant told the Court today. "Without some direction, nobody will take any responsibility" he added. The counsel told the Court that there is a spike in noise and air pollution during Diwali season in Rajasthan. The applicant had also sought for a specific direction to the district administration of Udaipur citing that it is a sought after destination for weddings throughout the year.
"Added to that, it will be election season also now", Justice Bopanna said on a lighter note.
The counsel for the State of Rajasthan however, said that the spike in pollution levels was minor. "Ultimately, if the people want celebrate Diwali, there must be self restraint. Every citizen must see to it that they are celebrating diwali with less number of crackers," he said.
"These days children don't burst crackers, it is the adults.." Justice Bopanna said in today's hearing.
"When it comes to environment protection, there is a wrong perception that it is only the duty of the court" Justice Sundresh said.
The application was filed in a batch of petitions filed seeking a ban on the sale, purchase and use of firecrackers in India that the Supreme Court has been considering since 2015.
In September this year, the Apex Court had rejected an application filed by a firecracker manufacturers' association known as TANFAMA, to include barium with improved formulations in green crackers. The Court had clarified that the earlier orders passed by it banning the use of barium-based chemicals in fire crackers would prevail. The Court further rejected another application filed by the firecracker manufacturers to use joined crackers.
With the new formulation, the emission of particulate matter would be reduced by 30% and would hence qualify as a green cracker, the association had claimed.
"..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" the Court had said.
"..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 Court had also told the association of firecracker manufacturers.
In today's hearing, Sr. Adv. Shyam Divan appearing for the association told the Court that they have written to CSIR-NEERI for coming up with improved formulations.
Sr. Adv. Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing for the Petitioners (who seek to ban the use of firecrackers) responded to this by saying "that order is being violated right across Delhi and we will find out in a week's time."
In another application regarding controlling stubble burning in neighbouring states of Delhi-NCR, the court was informed that a coordinate bench was taking up a similar matter today. The court sought the response of the meteorology department in 3 weeks in the said application.
Notably, the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia today, in the wake of the worsening air quality in Delhi-National Capital Region, directed the Governments of Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana to take immediate steps to stop stubble burning by farmers in the State, which the Court said was one of the major contributors to air pollution
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 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
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