C Modifies Telangana HC’s Order Banning Firecrackers In The State In Line With NGT’s Directions Of November 9

It is quite refreshing, reassuring and remarkable that in a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled The Telangana Fire Works Dealers Association vs. P Indra Prakash & Ors in Special Leave Petition (Civil) Diary Nos. 24650/2020 delivered on November 13, 2020 has modified the order of the Telangana High Court which imposed a complete and immediate ban on the sale and use of firecrackers across the state during Diwali to fall in line with the directions imposed by the National Green Tribunal on November 9. It must be revealed here that a vacation Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna issued notice on the petition and stated that the NGT guidelines applied to the State of Telangana and that, it shall comply with the directions in letter and spirit. Very rightly so!

We all know that pollution is crossing all limits in our country especially in Delhi and adjoining regions. It may be recalled that the National Green Tribunal on November 9 had imposed a total ban on sale/use of all kinds of firecrackers in Delhi NCR from the midnight of November 9-10, 2020 to the midnight of November 10. The direction was passed by a Bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairperson – Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel in a batch of petitions seeking remedial action against pollution by use of firecrackers in the NCR.

At the outset, the ball is set rolling by first and foremost observing that, “Permission to file special leave petition is granted. Heard learned counsel for the petitioner. Issue notice. Dasti, in addition, is permitted.”

What next follows is that it is then stated that, “List this matter on 16th November, 2020 before an appropriate Bench.”

Going forward, the Bench then henceforth goes on to put forth that, “In the meantime, the impugned judgment and order of the High Court stands modified and is brought in line with the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal vide comprehensive order dated 09th November, 2020 in O.A. No. 249 of 2020, which applies even to the State of Telangana on all fours. For, no reason much less special reason is noted in the impugned order for departing therefrom.”

Most remarkably and most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to convey in simple, suave and straight language that, “All concerned in the State of Telangana must comply with the stated directions of the Tribunal in its letter and spirit, which is reproduced hereunder for the sake of convenience:-

i.               There will be total ban against sale or use of all kinds of fire crackers in the NCR from midnight of November, 09-10, 2020 to the midnight of November 30 – December 1, 2020 to be reviewed thereafter.

ii.            Direction (i) will also apply to all cities/towns in the country where the average of ambient air quality during November (as per available data of last year) fall under ‘poor’ and above category.

iii.          The cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below, only green crackers be sold and the timings for use and bursting of crackers be restricted to two hours during festivals, like Diwali, Chatt, New Year/Christmas Eve etc., as may be specified by the concerned State. This direction is on pattern of direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in (2019) 13 SCC 523 which we are applying to areas moderately polluted or below air quality due to aggravated effect during Covid-19, as already noted. If nothing is specified by the State, timing will be 8 to 10 pm on Diwali and Gurupurb, 6 am to 8 am on Chatt and 11.55 pm to 12.30 am during Christmas and New Year Eve (which have yet to come and do not fall in November but if ban continues) and not otherwise.

iv.          At other places, ban/restrictions are optional for the authorities but if there are more stringent measures under orders of the authorities, the same shall prevail.

v.             All States/UTs/PCBs/PCCs may initiate special drives to contain air pollution from all sources in view of potential aggravation of Covid-19.

vi.          The Chief Secretaries and DGPs of all the States/UTs may issue and circulate an appropriate order in above terms with appropriate enforcement guidelines to all the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police, PCBs/PCCs.

vii.       The CPCB and the State PCBs/PCCs may regularly monitor the air quality during this period which may be uploaded on their respective websites. CPCB may compile information on the subject, including the status of compliance of this order from all the States/UTs and file a consolidated report with data compiled till filing of report, before the next date by e-mail at judicial-ngt@gov.in preferably in the form of searchable PDF/OCR Support PDF and not in the form of Image PDF.”

Finally, it is then held that, “We are conscious of the fact that the respondent(s) are not represented today nor they have been served but in the peculiar situation and urgency involved, as aforesaid, the impugned order stands modified to bring in line with the stated directions issued by the National Green Tribunal.”

It may be recalled that recently the Supreme Court had also refused to interfere with a similar order passed by the Calcutta High Court order banning fireworks during Diwali, Kali Puja, Durga puja celebrations in West Bengal. A Bench of Apex Court headed by Justice Dr DY Chandrachud observed that preservation of life was more important during the pandemic than the celebration of festivals. What Justice Dr DY Chandrachud has said is nothing but hundred percent right!

To conclude, we all are now fully aware as to how much pollution is caused by firecrackers that we all normally burst without thinking of its hazardous consequences on our own body. But now as pollution is crossing all limits, it is high time we wake up and take this menace of pollution most seriously!  Supreme Court and NGT are directing banning of firecrackers for our good only. It damages our lungs beyond repair. So it is our duty to comply with them unconditionally and completely! There can certainly be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi,

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