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‘West Bengal can’t be exception’: SC sets aside HC order banning firecrackers

The bench observed that the National Green Tribunal, on manufacturing and sale of firecrackers, has delineated a regime and government should take steps against banned firecrackers.

IANS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Calcutta High Court order, which imposed a total ban on firecrackers during Kali Puja, Diwali and other festivities.

A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi said there cannot be a total ban on firecrackers, and rather, there is need to strengthen the mechanism against the use of banned chemical substances like barium salts.

“The order has to be consistent. West Bengal can’t be an exception,” it said.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing the West Bengal government, contended before the bench that the high court was urged to pass the order based on unfounded apprehension. He pointed at the absence of a mechanism to check the use of banned chemicals in the manufacture of firecrackers, and also added that the October 29 order passed by the court was out of the blue.

Senior advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, representing the association of manufacturers and dealers of firecrackers, submitted his clients have been following the order passed by the top court in 2018, and 2020. He also cited the recent top court order making it clear that there was no total ban on firecrackers.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan representing Arjun Gopal, a petitioner before the top court, submitted that the order passed by the high court was passed bearing in mind the difficulty involved in implementing the top court’s order.

However, Grover added that the West Bengal State Pollution Control Board had on October 26 allowed sale of green crackers.

The bench observed that the National Green Tribunal, on manufacturing and sale of firecrackers, has delineated a regime and government should take steps against banned firecrackers.

“To depart from that regime, some different position has to be pointed out including inaction or collusive approach of the executive at the ground level,” it said.

Advocate Rachit Lakhmani, representing a petitioner, submitted that green crackers also caused pollution and pointed out that designated places should be allocated to burst firecrackers — away from hospitals and residential areas.

During the hearing, Grover pointed out police have been monitoring the situation and cited FIRs and arrests made in connection with the issue since 2018. The top court after hearing arguments set aside the high court order.

On October 29, the Supreme Court ordered all state governments and Union Territories (UTs) to ensure its directions banning use of barium salts in fireworks were strictly followed. It emphasised that there was no total ban on use of firecrackers, and only those comprising banned substances are banned.