Case Title- Arjun Gopal vs. The Union of India
Considering the necessity to give precedence to the health of the people in Delhi and in the NCR over any commercial or other interest, the bench of Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ issued elaborate directions and said that keeping in mind the adverse effects of air pollution, the human right to breathe clean air and the human right to health, the Central Government and other authorities should consider encouraging display fireworks through community participation rather than individual bursting of fireworks.
The directions issued by the Court are as follows:
- The concerned police authorities and the District Magistrates will ensure that fireworks are not burst in silence zones that is, an area at least 100 meters away from hospitals, nursing homes, primary and district health-care centres, educational institutions, courts, religious places or any other area that may be declared as a silence zone by the concerned authorities.
- The Delhi Police is directed to reduce the grant of temporary licenses by about 50% of the number of licenses granted in 2016. The number of temporary licenses should be capped at 500.
- The Union of India will update and revise and ensure strict compliance with the Notification dated 27th January 1992 regarding the ban on import of fireworks.
- The Department of Education of the Government of NCT of Delhi and the corresponding Department in other States in the NCR shall immediately formulate a plan of action, in not more than 15 days, to reach out to children in all the schools through the school staff, volunteers and NGOs to sensitize and educate school children on the health hazards and ill-effects of breathing polluted air, including air that is polluted due to fireworks. School children should be encouraged to reduce, if not eliminate, the bursting of fireworks as a part of any festivities.
- Fireworks containing aluminum, sulphur, potassium, and barium may be sold in Delhi and in the NCR, provided the composition already approved by Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) is maintained. However, the use of compounds of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic, and lead in the manufacture of fireworks as well as the use of strontium chromate in the manufacture of fireworks is prohibited.
- 50,00,000 kg of fireworks is far more than enough for Dussehra and Diwali in 2017, hence, transport of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR from outside the region is prohibited and the concerned law enforcement authorities will ensure that there is no further entry of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR till further orders. The permanent licensees are at liberty to take measures to transport the stocks outside Delhi and the NCR.
- The suspension of permanent licenses as directed by the order dated 11th November 2016 is lifted for the time being. However, the suspension might be reviewed after Diwali depending on the ambient air quality post-Diwali.
- Research study must be jointly carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Fireworks Development Research Centre (FDRC) laying down appropriate standards for ambient air quality in relation to the bursting of fireworks and the release of their constituents in the air. Also, a research study needs to be conducted on the impact of bursting fireworks during Dussehra and Diwali on the health of the people.
The Court appointed a Committee to be chaired by the Chairperson of the CPCB and consisting of officers at the appropriate level from the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Timarpur, Delhi, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, scientists from the State Pollution Control Boards, the Fire Development and Research Centre, Sivakasi and Nagpur and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) nominated by the Chairperson of the CPCB to submit a report in this regard preferably on or before 31st December, 2017.
The role of Diwali fireworks in stoking pollution is a hotly debated issue. It has been pointed out that Diwali is a one-day affair celebrated once every year and questions are raised on whether such restrictions can have lasting effects on curbing pollution. On the other hand, fireworks are also a frequent part of weddings and, sometimes, even birthday celebrations.