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No blanket ban on sale of firecrackers, only green firecrackers will be sold: SC

The top court said only green firecrackers will be sold in the market.

No blanket ban on sale of firecrackers, only green firecrackers will be sold: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to put a blanket ban on the sale of firecrackers, saying only green firecrackers (less polluting and eco-friendly) will be sold in the markets.

Only green firecrackers with permissible decibel sound limits will be allowed to be sold in the market, the top court said in its order.

Judge Arjan Kumar Sikri said only licensed traders would be allowed to sell ''safe'' firecrackers as he banned the online sale of the same.

The top court passed the order while responding to a number of petitions seeking a direction to ban the sale of firecrackers.

The Supreme Court, in its order, also banned the online sale of firecrackers and put a stay on the e-commerce portals like Flipkart, Amazon and others from selling firecrackers which are beyond the permissible limit.

''E-commerce websites will be hauled up for the contempt of court if they don't adhere to the court's direction, the top court warned.

The top court also fixed the duration for bursting crackers. On Diwali and other religious festivals, it allowed bursting of firecrackers between 8 PM and 10 PM. Meanwhile, on Christmas and New Year, the bursting of crackers will be allowed only between 11.45 PM and 12.45AM.

The top court order, which evoked a mixed reaction, assumes significance as the Air Quality Index (AQI) has risen above 300 in parts of Delhi in recent days.

The AQI measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter present in the air. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy by the Central Pollution Control Board.   

''Supreme Court's order is not very strict. We were expecting a complete ban but that has not happened. Crackers will be allowed but there is time restriction as it will be allowed between 8 PM to 10 PM: Vijay Panjwani, Advocate of Central Pollution Control Board, said.

The apex court had in August said that it needs to take into account all aspects, including the fundamental right of livelihood of manufacturers and the right to health of over 1.3 billion people in the country while considering a plea for a ban on firecrackers. 

The court had said the Article 21 (right to life) of Constitution applies to both segments of people and it needs to maintain a balance while considering a countrywide ban on firecrackers. 

The court had also asked the Centre to file an affidavit giving details of measures to be taken for curbing pollution and what is the effect of firecrackers on the public at large. "There are economic aspects attached to it,'' it said.

The government affidavit says there are 1,750 firecrackers manufacturing industries in Tamil Nadu, which employs 5,000 families directly or indirectly. It says firecrackers industries are worth Rs 6,000 crore. We have to see what is the relevance of economic aspect on the fundamental rights," the bench had said. 

The apex court had said that a spike in PM 2.5 levels in the air is a severe problem as the particulate matter remains in people's lungs, leading to serious health implications. 

Firecrackers manufacturers had told the court that the use of firecrackers should not be completely banned and it should instead be strictly regulated. 

They have contended that the crackers are not the reason for the increase in air pollution and there are other factors, like wind and temperature, which contribute to it. They said the firecracker manufacturers can be deprived of their right to do business based on statements which were not supported by facts. 

On October 9 last year, the top court temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers ahead of Diwali. Later, the court refused to relax its order while dismissing a plea by traders who had sought permission to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali on October 19, 2017. 

The apex court said its ban order during Diwali that year was an experiment to examine its effect on the pollution levels in the region.