“Cannot Have Complete Ban On Firecrackers”: Supreme Court’s New Ruling

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Green crackers – firecrackers made using relatively less-polluting materials – can be used during the festive season starting this week in West Bengal, the Supreme Court said on Monday, setting aside a total ban on crackers by the Calcutta High Court to check air pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relying upon an order by the top court in another case involving firecrackers from Friday, the judges said, “There cannot be a complete ban of firecrackers. Strengthen the mechanism to stop misuse.”

Supreme Court Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi also asked the West Bengal government to explore the possibility of ensuring that banned firecrackers and related items are not imported in the state and stopped at entry points.

The judges, who assembled during the Diwali break to hear the matter, were hearing the pleas by manufacturers against the order of the high court banning the sale, use and purchase of all types of firecrackers in the state issued on Friday. The ruling comes just days ahead of Kali Puja, Diwali and other festivals.

Appearing for firecracker manufacturers, senior lawyer Siddharth Bhatnagar told the Supreme Court on Monday: “Despite the fact that there are three orders of Supreme Court regarding green crackers and two orders of the National Green Tribunal, the Calcutta High Court has banned green crackers. The Supreme Court orders say that if air quality is moderate or better, green crackers may be permitted to be used.”

The Calcutta High Court order had come over a Public Interest Litigation filed by environmental activist Roshni Ali who sought a ban on the sale and use of firecrackers during the upcoming festivities to safeguard people’s right to clean, healthy and breathable air, particularly in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The state should ensure that there is no use or display or bursting of firecrackers of any type at all during Kali Puja, Diwali celebrations as well as Chhath Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Guru Nanak’s birthday and Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations this year,” the High Court had said.

It had said that only wax or oil-based diyas may be used for the occasions.

Like many Indian cities, Bengal’s capital Kolkata has recorded some of the highest pollution levels on the planet in recent years and residents are on track to lose nine years of life expectancy if 2019 levels persist, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Chicago.

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