The National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, on 5th November 2020, reserved its order on the issue of imposing a temporary ban on the use and sale of firecrackers across the country in a bid to protect vulnerable people from the increase of air pollution amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The application was filed by the Indian Social Responsibility Network through Santosh Gupta, seeking remedial action against pollution by use of firecrackers in NCR during the time air quality remained unsatisfactory with the potential of the severity of COVID-19 pandemic. The application referred to the statement of the Union Health Minister and the Health Minister of Delhi that during the festive season there will be a rise of COVID-19 cases due to air pollution.
Arguments Before the Court
The Appellant contended that an increase in pollution may further affect the vulnerable groups and increase the fatality rate. The Appellant submitted the report that COVID-19 cases in Delhi may go up to 15,000 per day, as against the current cases of about 5,000 per day. The use of green crackers would not remedy the situation. The smoke would choke and cause a gas chamber-like situation. It would further lead to poor visibility, hazy conditions and asphyxia.
The Bench considered this case in light of the Right to a clean environment. The Bench also acknowledged the adverse effect of the bursting of crackers on health due to increased pollution.
The Bench referred to the decision in Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2017) 1 SCC 412, wherein it was noted that air quality standards in Delhi were dropping from ‘poor’ to ‘severe’ during winter, resulting in the potential of diseases.
The Tribunal Bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had observed that there were reports in the public domain that the air quality of Delhi is deteriorating and further deterioration would give rise to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Bench also noted that there were expert views on the clear nexus of air pollution with COVID-19 and with increased air pollution.
While hearing a petition on the matter, the Bench reserved the order after hearing amicus curiae, Senior Advocate Raj Panjwani and Indian Fireworks Manufacturers’ Association lawyer and Senior Advocate, Mahesh Jethmalani along with counsels appearing for the Ministry of Environment, Central Pollution Control Board and the lawyers for various states.
The Bench issued notice to Environment Ministry, CPCB, DPCC, Delhi Government, Delhi Police Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, seeking their stand whether the use of firecrackers may be banned from November 7 to 30.
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