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Monday, November 29, 2021

The annual judicial guessing game over Diwali crackers

Every year as Diwali draws close, Hindus are left guessing as to what pronouncement the judiciary would come up with regard to the bursting of crackers. It has become an annual affair for the judiciary and administrative authorities to put in place bizarre rules and regulations citing ‘pollution’ and ‘right to life’ as the apex court recently said while banning crackers.

Judiciary on Diwali crackers

The Supreme Court (SC) recently set aside an order passed by the Calcutta High Court (HC) completely banning crackers during festivals such as Kali Puja, Diwali, Chhath Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Gurpurab, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve this year. The SC bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi termed it an extreme order. The judges were of the opinion that the HC order was based on “unfounded apprehension that there is no sufficient mechanism in place to ascertain whether the crackers used are green”.

The division bench of Calcutta HC comprising of Justices Sabyasachi Bhattacharya and Aniruddha Roy had passed a judgment placing a total ban on the sale and use of firecrackers. Even so-called green crackers had been banned by the HC till December 31 this year.

SC cited its 2018 order in the matter while expressing displeasure at different high courts passing different judgments in the matter. It also added that if necessary, the executive should pass orders such that the modalities are the same everywhere.

Apex court’s 2018 order on crackers

In 2018, the SC had passed an order regarding the use and sale of firecrackers where it set time slots for bursting firecrackers in addition to permitting the use of ‘green crackers’.

A report by The Mint in the matter highlights:

Ruling out a blanket ban on firecrackers in Delhi-National Capital Region, the Supreme Court has permitted the sale of “green crackers”. However, it has restricted the bursting of crackers across India to two hours—from 8pm to 10pm—on Diwali and other festivities, including weddings. The apex court set a separate slot—11.55pm to 12.30am—for bursting crackers during Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the country. Online sale of crackers has been banned. Sale of joined firecrackers, popularly called laris, is also prohibited.

Similarly, the court had it had allowed the bursting of green crackers which are crackers that cause lesser emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) was appointed to review the chemical composition of the crackers.

Patronizing attitude towards Hindus

Even as the SC stated that its ruling wasn’t targeted at any particular community, it must be pointed out the Hindu community and its festivities have become the target of both the executive and judiciary. It is also pertinent to draw the attention of readers to the fact that air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region has been used as a convenient excuse to systematically destroy Diwali celebrations across the country.

In this regard, we must remember that the causes for pollution in the Delhi-NCR region have been issues such as stubble burning and industrial pollution among others. Last year, even after crackers were completely banned during Diwali at the last minute by courts, National Green Tribunal, and the Delhi government, the air quality showed no improvement even weeks after Diwali.

As Hindupost had reported last year, “pollution levels on Diwali and the day after were at their maximum in the last four years, despite the ban on crackers! Moreover, Delhi’s average AQI for November stood in the ‘severe’ category at 328. And it has further worsened now in late December to cross 400 and is expected to deteriorate even more”. A report had highlighted that stubble burning was one of the major factors that contributed to large-scale pollution in the capital city.

In essence, both the judiciary and executive have opted for an easy way out by banning crackers during one of the major Hindu festivals instead of tackling the root cause of pollution. What’s worse is a one size fits all approach has been adopted in the matter, thereby leaving Hindus at the mercy of judicial decisions to celebrate their festivals.

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