Refusing to order a blanket ban on firecrackers on Diwali, the Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the Centre’s failure to carry out its earlier directive to give wide publicity to the ill effects of bursting of crackers, including sound and air pollution.
The union government has not complied with the October 16 order, the apex court said, taking a dim view of the Centre’s inaction on the issue so far.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra asked the Centre and other authorities to launch a publicity campaign both in print and electronic media on the harmful effects of firecrackers during the festival season from October 31 to November 12.
The court reiterated its earlier order of 2005, prohibiting bursting of firecrackers during night hours from 10.00 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“When we passed our October 16 order, we intended it to be carried out and advertisements published continuously,” the court observed as Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the bench that advertisements were ready and would be published before Diwali.
Apparently unimpressed by the submission, the bench questioned the efficacy of such advertisements. “You publish (the advertisements) one fine morning. When we passed that order, we intended it to be published continuously.” The court said the advertisement campaign would now begin from October 31.
The apex court by its October 16 order directed the central and state governments to give wide publicity, both in print and electronic media, to the ill effects of fireworks and advise the people accordingly.
That order also directed “teachers/lecturers/assistant professors/professors of schools and colleges to educate students about the ill effects of the fireworks”.
As senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for a toddler-petitioner, urged the court to direct that people should burst firecrackers at a common ground, Chief Justice Dattu said, “We can’t say that all those who want to burst firecrackers should go to Nehru Ground.”
“We can’t regulate the bursting of firecrackers,” Chief Justice Dattu observed.
“You are asking for an order which can’t be enforced,” Justice Mishra said as Singhvi wanted the apex court to fix some “reasonable time limit” for bursting of firecrackers.
Three toddlers – six-month-olds Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari and 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin – moved the apex court to seek a ban on the sale and bursting of firecrackers during Dussehra and Diwali celebrations as it aggravated the already dangerous air pollution level and harmed them.
Counsel told the court that lungs of the toddlers were not yet fully developed and large-scale bursting of firecrackers during Dussehra and Diwali would further aggravate the already polluted air, and would be seriously detrimental to their health.
The three toddlers moved the apex court through their lawyer fathers.