After making a splash with his arguments in the Jagannath temple case, J Sai Deepak, on behalf of civil liberties group Indic Collective, once again made some salient arguments in the Court in the Diwali cracker ban case. Arguing against the ban, he cited a study which pointed to a variety of factors which contributed to high pollution in the NCR and none of which point towards Diwali as the sole or the biggest contributor.
He cited a 2018 report by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which mentioned 7 major causes of pollution in Delhi but didn’t include Diwali. Sai Deepak also submitted that imposing a blanket ban would effectively mean that the State has conceded that it is incapable of regulating an industry despite the existence of a regulatory mechanism.
He also demonstrated that bursting of crackers during Diwali is based on the faith and traditions of individuals and is a ritual that has a clear scriptural basis. Thus, he asserted that the bursting of crackers during Diwali is protected by Article 25(1) of the Constitution in light of the fact that it has a clear scriptural basis.
The Central government too has opposed the plea for a nationwide ban on the use, manufacture, licensing, sale, resale or distribution of firecrackers and sparklers of any kind during Diwali in a bid to combat pollution on an emergency basis. However, the Center has suggested alternative measures to curb pollution which includes the imposition of additional conditions on the manufacture and selling of high-decibel crackers.
The Centre proposed the use of “reduced emission firecrackers or improved firecrackers”. These are “low emission sound and light emitting functional crackers with PM reduction by 30-35% and a significant reduction in nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide due to in-situ water generation as a dust suppressant and low cost due to the usage of low-cost oxidants”.
The government of Tamil Nadu also opposed a nationwide ban on crackers. Senior Counsel Shekhar Nalpade deemed it an extreme measure and said a solution to the problem of pollution should not itself become a problem. The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association, Sivakasi, submitted that fireworks have been an integral feature of festivals of all communities. It was also submitted that the firework industry provides employment to 3 lakh people and indirectly to 10 lakh people. Any ban on fireworks will adversely affect the lives of lakhs of people.