The Supreme Court on Tuesday banned transportation of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR for Dussehra and Diwali, with an emphasis on "health of children should be of foremost concern in this regard."
Issuing a 16-point order, a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur noted there is enough quantity of firecrackers already available in Delhi-NCR and the dealers should exhaust them first.
The Apex Court also lifted its ban on the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region for the time being, but said only 500 temporary licences will be issued before Dussehra and Diwali. The bench said it would review its ban order after Diwali, depending on the air quality of the city.
The court also issued a stern warning to maintain a 100-meter "silent zone" around hospitals, courts, educational institutions and religious places and tasked the police with ensuring that this is followed.
A bench of Justice MB Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, said, "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 of fireworks through community participation rather than individual bursting of fireworks.”
The authorities should rope in schools and educate children on the "health hazards of breathing polluted air, including air that is polluted due to fireworks," the court said. "School children should be encouraged to reduce, if not eliminate, the bursting of fireworks as part of any festivities".
It modified its previous order to suspend licenses of the firecracker dealers while giving them 30 days’ time to counter why the quantity of firecrackers should not go down to 50 percent by 2018.
"While lifting the suspension on the permanent licences granted, we put these licensees on notice for Dussehra and Diwali in 2018 that they will be permitted to possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017 and this will substantially reduce over the next couple of years," it said.
The Court added that the revival of licenses will be reviewed after Diwali depending upon ambient air quality post Diwali.
About temporary licenses to selk firecrackers, the bench capped the number at 500 and directed the Delhi Police to make sure the number of temporary licenses is not more than 50 per cent of such licenses in 2016.
"Similarly, the states in the NCR are restrained from granting more than 50% of the number of temporary licences granted in 2016," ordered the bench.
Last year, the Supreme Court had suspended the licences of all firecracker sellers in Delhi and the National Capital Region for a time, virtually banning sale and purchase. The order had come in response to a petition by three infants, all aged around one year, who appealed for a stop to the sale of firecrackers, saying their lungs had not been fully developed.
In its order, the court had said as per reports, 30 per cent children in Delhi were asthmatic and steps needed to be taken all fronts to ensure their well-being.
Air quality in Delhi-NCR saw an alarming drop after Diwali celebrations last year. As a result of the smog, schools remained closed for three days from November 7. The National Green Tribunal had also declared an environmental emergency in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.