The Supreme Court did not ban firecrackers but restricted its use to tackle concerns about deadly pollution in Delhi and other cities. The top court allowed “safe and green” crackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali,when fireworks add to toxic smog in Delhi, the world’s most polluted city according to a WHO report. No “low-emission” firecrackers exist yet, so today’s order may well be a ban. “We tried to strike a balance,” said the court, announcing a two-hour limit for bursting crackers at festivals and weddings. A petition on behalf of three infants in 2015 had called for a complete ban.
Here is your 10-point cheatsheet on the Supreme Court verdict on firecrackers:
- Firecrackers will be allowed between 11:55 pm and 12:30 am on Christmas and New Year, said Judges AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.
- In Delhi, crackers will be allowed only in designated spots, which need to be identified within a week.
- Only crackers that are within noise pollution limits set in an earlier verdict will be allowed. The “ladi” or chain firecrackers – a Diwali favourite – are banned.
- Only licensed traders can sell firecrackers, which are to have less lithium, barium and arsenic – chemicals that cause breathing difficulties and cancer.
- Crackers cannot be sold online and if they are, such e-commerce sites will be hauled up for contempt. The court referred to Flipkart and Amazon.
- The police officer in charge of an area will be responsible for any violation of the new rules. For now, no cracker complies with the court’s description.
- On October 9 last year, the court had temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers before Diwali. The ban was an experiment to see the impact on pollution, the judges had said.
- In hearings, the court had noted that Article 21 of the constitution on the Right to Life – a plea used by the petitioners – applied to all, including cracker-makers.
- Each year, smoke from firecrackers covers Delhi and its neighbourhood in a haze that can linger for days as wind speeds drop in the cooler weather, adding to pollution caused by the burning of crop residue, vehicle exhausts and industrial gases. Last year, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called the city a “gas chamber.”
The air quality index, which measures the concentration of poisonous particulate matter, has crossed 300 in parts of Delhi in recent days. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy by the Central Pollution Control Board.