Sale of firecrackers is not permitted in the national capital as per the orders passed by the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court said.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, while hearing a petition by several traders against the complete ban on the storage and sale of all kinds of firecrackers, said that the petitioners ought to approach the Supreme Court or the NGT for any relief.
“Please go to the Supreme Court. Supreme Court is already looking into the issue today. Seek a clarification. (High court is the) Wrong forum. Inform NGT. They are a specialised body,” the judge said.
In view of the court’s opinion, the traders — who were seeking permission to sell their stock for use outside the city — withdrew their petition.
“If someone were to come from an area ”A” having good air quality, the point of sale would be Delhi, which is in contravention of orders of the Supreme Court and NGT,” the court said.
“Prima facie, the NGT and Supreme Court orders come in the way of the petitioners. Alternatively, they can sell it outside Delhi (wherever legally permissible),” it added.
Considering that Diwali is only three days away, the court permitted the petitioners to withdraw their plea while clarifying that the issues raised before it as well as the challenge to the legal validity of the ban, was still open.
The NGT on December 2, 2020, had directed that there would be a total ban on the sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers during COVID-19 pandemic in the NCR and all cities/towns in the country where the ambient air quality falls under the “poor” and above category.
In July, the Supreme Court had refused to interfere with the NGT order while observing that scientific studies are not needed to ascertain the side-effects of firecrackers on health of citizens.
Lawyer Rohini Musa, appearing for the petitioners, contended that before the high court that in terms of the Supreme Court order, sale of green firecrackers can be permitted in the national capital if it is not for “use”.
The court opined that the Supreme Court order prohibited both sale as well as use of fireworks and asked the lawyer to “show which order and which paragraph” permitted sale in Delhi.
“NGT imposes a ban, Supreme Court refuses to interfere… Once NGT has banned it and Supreme Court has said nothing, where is the consideration by Supreme Court of NGT order?” the judge asked.
The court also observed that the COVID-19 pandemic was not over and it was time to be careful.
“Have you seen the interview of the AIIMS Director, where he says probably the surge has started? Now we have to be careful. Yesterday, for the first time in 36 days, the cases were beyond 30,000,” the judge observed.
Central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh said the onus was on the petitioners to show as to where they could take their stock for sale without contravening any of the judicial orders.
Advocate Balendu Shekhar, appearing for Delhi Pollution Control Committee, said the sale and use of firecrackers cannot be permitted in the city which is still witnessing “poor” air quality.
He stated that the petitioners may be permitted to take their stock outside Delhi after accounting for “how much” and “where” their stock was going.
Delhi government additional standing counsel Naushad Ahmed Khan asserted that COVID-19 restrictions were yet to be lifted completely and for the last one year, the government was not allowing the use of firecrackers.
The authorities have seized thousands of kilograms of firecrackers pursuant to the raids carried out by them, he said.
In their plea before the high court, the petitioners had contended that the Delhi government’s decision to impose an absolute ban on firecrackers violates their fundamental right to profess and continue their trade in “environmentally friendly green crackers”.
It alleged that there is “complete non-application of mind” and in the absence of any study to indicate that the bursting of firecrackers is a “major contributor to the pollution levels, the prohibition is arbitrary, unreasonable and ought to be set aside”.
It highlighted that while similarly situated dealers in such other states in the country are free to undertake the sale of fireworks, the petitioners, who are already suffering due to the pandemic, remain banned.
The petition also stated the Supreme Court, on October 29, expressly clarified that there was no ban on the storage, sale and use of green crackers.