Why no full ban on ammonium nitrates: HC to Centre

Jaipur: The Rajasthan High Court has directed officials of four central ministries to appear before it and explain why there should not be a blanket ban on sale of ammonium nitrate, which can be used for making explosives, in the open market.

A single judge bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma yesterday directed the under secretaries of Union Commerce, Mining, Law and Home ministries to appear before it on September 26 and explain the government's stand.

"Some persons having licence for such explosive items are misusing them by selling the chemicals to anti-social elements," the court observed, taking serious view of the fact that the explosive chemical is easily accessible to anyone in open market.

"There should be a prescribed limit on giving such explosive items to licencees by the concerned authorities," Justice Sharma noted and referred to various bomb attacks in the past in many parts of the country in which ammonium nitrate was used.

The court observed that ammonium nitrate is banned in many countries, including Germany, Colombia, Ireland, Philippines, China ando Afghanistan.

The direction came during hearing of a bail petition of Abdul Rasheed alias Baniya, who was arrested from Alwar with a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate and had been booked under Explosives Substance Act.

Additional Solicitor General S S Raghav submitted that the Centre has already banned the sale of ammonium nitrate.

However, Justice Sharma was not satisfied with the response and said, "Although the government seems to have woken up by banning open sale of ammonium nitrate, it has not given a detailed instructions on how the ban will be made effective.

"It is a commonly used fertilizer by farmers in India. The government has specified that it will invoke penal action only if the composition has 45 per cent or more ammonium nitrate content but failed to appreciate that if the 45 per cent ammonium nitrate is mixed with high quantity of gun powder, the bomb can be of extremely high intensity and ban of the fertilizer alone cannot make a difference."

Concerned over the frequent use of the chemical by terror groups in making bombs, the government had in July this year declared fertilisers having more than 45 per cent of ammonium nitrate as an explosive substance.

"... The central government hereby declares that Ammonium Nitrate or any combination containing more than 45 per cent of Ammonium Nitrate by weight including emulsions, suspensions, melts or gels shall be deemed to be an explosive," a gazette notification of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had said.

After the recent Mumbai blasts, the government had decided to control free movement of ammonium nitrate in order to prevent its use as explosives by terrorists.

Traces of ammonium nitrate were found from the blast sites at Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar in the country's financial capital.