The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its November 2016 ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region (NCR), noting that a complete ban is “too radical a step.”
The apex court lifted its suspension of valid permanent licences in the NCR, which encompasses the entire National Capital Territory of Delhi, including New Delhi as well as urban areas surrounding it in the neighbouring States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. On November 11, 2016, the Supreme Court had ordered the suspension of all licences permitting the sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail within the NCR till further orders.
It had banned the grant or renewal of firecracker licences on a slew of petitions seeking a ban on the use of fireworks. Further, the air quality had worsened manifold after Deepavali in 2016.
In a paradigm shift from its stand last year, the court struck a balance between its primary concern to protect the “human right to breathe good quality air” and the commercial interests of the fireworks industry. It has now opted for a “graded approach” to prohibition of fireworks.
The modification is a big relief to Sivakasi fireworks manufacturers, who had challenged the 2016 ban. They contended the ban had left 821 fireworks industries and five lakh employees in dire straits.
“Consequently, a complete ban on the sale of fireworks would be an extreme step that might not be fully warranted by the facts available to us. There is, therefore, some justification for modifying the interim order passed on November 11, 2016 and lifting the suspension of the permanent licences…it is necessary to ensure that injustice is not caused to those who have already been granted a valid permanent licence to possess and sell fireworks in Delhi and the NCR,” a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed in a 44-page judgment.
The Bench passed directions for regulating temporary licences.