The Supreme Court of India has set aside the order of the Calcutta High Court imposing a complete ban on firecrackers in the state of West Bengal. On October 29th, the Calcutta High Court had ordered a complete ban on all kinds of firecrackers throughout the state of West Bengal during the upcoming festivals including Diwali, Kali Puja, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. The court had said that only wax or oil-based diyas can be used, and banned all firecrackers including green firecrackers which are allowed by the SC and the NGT.
The High Court had ordered the complete ban saying that there is no mechanism to check whether firecrackers sold in shops are green firecrackers or not, and therefore went on to ban such green firecrackers as well.
Hearing a petition filed by the firecracker manufacturers, the Supreme Court found fault with this argument by the High Court. Moreover, the petitioners also stated that the matter of mechanism to verify green firecrackers was never raised during the hearing in the Calcutta High Court. The petitioners had also pointed out various orders by Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal to argue that the complete ban is wrong.
The Supreme Court bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi agreed with the petitioners that while the High Court cites practical difficulties in allowing green firecrackers, no such difficulties are mentioned in the order. The court stated that the High Court should have given opportunities to the authorities to place on record if any mechanism was in place to ensure that only “green crackers” are being used. But the court issued the order without hearing about the mechanisms to identify green firecrackers, and the problems associated with them.
Calling the High Court order ‘extreme’, the apex court said, “we are convinced that Calcutta High Court should have called upon parties to give explanation before passing such an extreme order.”
West Bengal govt also contested the claim that there are difficulties in identifying allowed fireworks. Representing the state, senior advocate Anand Grover said that they are following the Supreme Court order allowing green firecrackers, and the cops do this using a mobile app. He informed the court that firecrackers are verified by scanning the QR cores printed on them, and several persons are arrested every year for selling fake green firecrackers which are identified using this method. He said that there is an unfounded apprehension by the Calcutta HC on this matter.
The apex court that there cannot be a complete ban on firecrackers, which it had already said on 29th October in a different case, and asked the authorities to strengthen mechanism to supervise and implement its orders. The apex court said that it is setting aside the high court order, and allowed anyone to approach the high court on the basis of any material or record.
The court added that the regime introduced by the NGT in respect of manufacture and sale of firecrackers will have to be followed by all, and to depart from it, some extreme position has to be pointed out, like inaction or collusion of the govt. The order said that at present Pollution Control Board have said that authorities are taking action, and in case of any inaction, appropriate action will be taken.
The court further ordered West Bengal govt to ensure that no banned crackers are imported into the state, and asked to strengthen the mechanism