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These strange reasons, and not pollution, seem to be why SC banned sale of crackers

On Oct 9th, the honourable Supreme Court of India banned the sale of firecrackers ahead of Diwali in Delhi/NCR area. The ban is to remain in force till 1st November.

This has caused a massive uproar among the Hindu community which sees it as a judicial overreach into its traditions and customs. While some do agree that crackers do have adverse effect on ambient air quality, majority think that shunning of firecrackers should come as a self restraint towards a greater social cause, rather than an institutional ban.

Environmentalist seem to have concluded and blamed Diwali to be the single largest reason for the pollution and ambient air quality in Delhi/NCR area during Nov/Dec and therefore justify the ban, however a quick look at the judgement [PDF] proves otherwise.

On a petition filed by Shree Arjun Gopal, other parties and argued by counsel Gopal Shankarnarayanan, the Supreme Court on 11th November, 2016 had passed an interim order to cancel licenses of all traders selling firecrackers in Delhi/NCR area till further orders. SC also ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a scientific study and prepare a report on the harmful effects of the materials, which are currently being used in the manufacture of fireworks.

In the meantime, the manufacturers of fire crackers as well as licence holders also filed applications for modification of the said interim order seeking some relief.

The court noted that:

From the material before us, it cannot be said with any great degree of certainty that the extremely poor quality of air in Delhi in November and December 2016 was the result only of bursting fireworks around Diwali. Certainly, there were other causes as well, but even so the contribution of the bursting of fireworks cannot be glossed over. Unfortunately, neither is it possible to give an accurate or relative assessment of the contribution of the other identified factors nor the contribution of bursting fireworks to the poor air quality in Delhi and in the NCR. 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.

Hence as a graded and balanced approach, in its order passed on 9th September, 2017, the court took into consideration the interest of those who had already been granted a valid permanent licence to posses and sell fireworks in Delhi and the NCR. Plus unlike what the so called liberal environmentalists are concluding, the court itself had observed that there was no certainly that the poor air quality in the capital region was only due to the use of fireworks.

However, in its latest order dated 9th October, 2017, SC imposed a temporary ban with immediate effect till 1st November. Even though the order has been passed, it is to be noted that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is yet to submit its study and scientific data on harmful effects of the materials used in fireworks.

But a couple of things that prompted the court to pass its latest interim orders are:

  • Before Diwali there are attempts on the part of the Government (Ministry of Environment, Government of India as well as Delhi Government), Media, NGOs and various other groups to create awareness in the general public about the ill-effects of bursting of these crackers. Campaigns are held in the schools wherein children are discouraged to have fireworks. Thus, there is virtually a consensus in the society that crackers should not be burnt during Diwali.
  • Order suspending the licences “just during Diwali” should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly during Diwali period.

How the court reached this conclusion that there is already a consensus in the society that crackers should not be burnt during Diwali is still not very clear. However, judgements should not be passed in absence of scientific data to “test” things. They should be passed when events are established “beyond reasonable doubt”.

There are livelihoods at stake due such a massive ban. You can’t experiment with the livelihood of people by making them nothing short of guinea pigs.

So before signing off, Can I put something as a corollary:

Whenever there is a “particular party” in power, there is an increase in corruption. Even though there may not be conclusive evidence against the party, the idea to put all leaders from that party in jail. This should be given a chance to test itself in order to find out as to whether it has a positive effect on state of corruption in our country?

Finally I only hope that we base our judgements on scientific evidences and not on “mahaul”. Hope you all have a great Diwali, with or without firecrackers.

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