The Supreme Court, on Thursday, reserved orders on a plea seeking curbs on the illegal manufacture and sale of banned firecrackers as it (the court) had told the Delhi Police instead of picking on small retailers and those bursting firecrackers, it should target the sources of such firecrackers.
As a bench of Justice A S Bopanna and Justice M M Sundresh reserved the order, the bench was told by the firecracker manufacturers that worldwide there was no ban in using Barium in the chemical composition of the firecrackers.
The bench was told that on October 23, 2018, when the top court banned the use of Barium as an oxidizer in firecrackers, there was no scientific study to back its stated harmful effects. The ban in 2018 was for the time being and not in perpetuity.
Barium is used in crackers to produce the colour green in fireworks. It also acts as a stabilizing agent to give firecrackers a longer shelf-life. Besides Barium,
Potassium Nitrate, Aluminium chips and powder
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for firecracker manufacturers, told the bench, “Barium Nitrate is used the world over and there is no alternate. No country has banned Barium Nitrate including the USA which has banned some salts from being used.”
Divan said that the Barium is being used in the ‘green firecrackers’ produced by the CSIR-NEERI with a 30 per cent reduced emission level. Divan referred to September 12, 2017, October 23, 2018, March 5, 2019, and December 6, 2019, top court orders to drive home his point.
Divan said the Barium Nitrate is used in the green crackers with reduced emission levels.
He said that there was no ban on the use of Barium by September 12, 2017.
The arguments advanced by Divan were broadly backed and complimented by other advocates who appeared for manufacturers opposing the ban, its adverse effects on the industry and the employment of those engaged in the industry.
However, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing for the petitioner Arjun Gopal – minor – said that a small firecracker with Barium emits 65,000 particulate matter and even if emission is reduced by 25-30%, still the amount of emission will be huge. He said though there was a ban on the firecrackers in the national capital they are being sold under the nose of authorities.
Responding to the bench yesterday (Wednesday) asking the Delhi Police to explain why despite the ban, the firecrackers are being sold, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati gave the details of the arrangements that are made by police to check the sale and bursting of firecrackers. She apprised the court of the cases instituted by the Delhi police.
Responding to a query from the bench as to why despite ban, the firecrackers were being sold in the national capital, Bhati said that the temporary licences are issued three days before Diwali. ASG Bhati said that Delhi Police has not issued any permanent licence on the firecrackers since 2016.
Justice Bopanna observed, “Permanent or temporary, it is for you, the effect is the same. If there is a ban, you have to adhere to it. There is a ban as of today, you have to adhere to it irrespective of green cracker or otherwise.”
As a lawyer questioned CSIR-NEERI on some counts, the bench said that they could act as a superior authority over CSIR and NEERI and observed that one has to trust primary institutions.