Asserting that school children should be encouraged to refrain from bursting firecrackers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed police not to grant more than 500 temporary licences for retail sale of fireworks during the Dussehra-Diwali season and also capped the sale of fireworks at 5,000 tonnes.
Directing the Delhi Police to reduce grant of temporary licences by about 50 per cent of those issued in 2016, a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta also restrained Haryana and Uttar Pradesh from granting more than 50 per cent of the licences granted in 2016 in the National Capital Region in their respective jurisdictions.
“The area of distribution of temporary licences is entirely for authorities to decide,” the court said.
The court ruling came while lifting the order dated November 11, 2016, suspending all licences for the sale of fireworks, both wholesale and retail, within the NCR.
“The suspension of permanent licences, as directed by the November 11 order, is lifted for the time being. This might require a review after Diwali, depending on the ambient air quality after the festival,” the court order said.
The apex court also directed that areas within 100-metre radius of hospitals, nursing homes, primary and district healthcare centres, educational institutions, courts, religious places would be declared silence zones.
The police and District Magistrate concerned would ensure that firecrackers are not burst in these silence zones, the court ordered.
The court said no firecrackers would be allowed to enter Delhi and the NCR from other regions.
The court said the Centre would ensure strict compliance with the 1992 notification on ban on import of fireworks.
However, it left a window open for the Centre to revise the 1992 notification in view of the “passage of time and further knowledge gained over the last 25 years” and issue a fresh one.
The court said the Education Departments in Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh would take steps within 15 days to reach out to students to sensitise and educate them on the health hazards and ill-effects of breathing polluted air, including air polluted by fireworks.
“Schoolchildren should be encouraged to reduce, if not eliminate, the bursting of fireworks as part of festivities,” the court said.
While making absolute its July 31 direction that prohibited use of metals like antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic, and lead, in the manufacture of fireworks, the court permitted the sale of fireworks containing aluminium, sulphur, potassium, and barium. It would be subject to the composition already approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation, the court said.
The court mandated the PESO to “ensure compliance with the standards it has formulated”.
The court appointed a committee headed by Central Pollution Control Board Chairperson to study the impact of fireworks during Diwali on public health and submit a report by December 31.
It would include members from the National Physical Laboratory at Delhi, Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences at Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, scientists from state Pollution Control Boards, Fire Development and Research Centres at Sivakasi and Nagpur, and National Environment Engineering Research Institute at Delhi.