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Opinion

SC refuses to revoke ban on sale of firecrackers in Bengal

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to reverse a ban on the sale or use of firecrackers in West Bengal during the November holiday month, saying that preservation of life should be the top priority in a country facing a pandemic.

An association of firecracker traders based in West Bengal filed an appeal with the high court challenging a Nov. 5 Kolkata high court order prohibiting the sale and use of firecrackers as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19. The ruling is likely to spell the end of potential legal challenges to the cracker bans (sales and resale) that the National Green Court (NGT) and several states and Union territories have enforced. The main reason for the ban is to prevent an increase in Covid-19 cases, with research clearly linking firecrackers to air pollution (if only temporarily) and the latter with increased mortality from Covid-19.

Delhi, for example, has been choking on pollutants from agricultural fires in Punjab and Haryana, and vehicular emissions, and was one of the first states to ban firecrackers, which significantly but temporarily worsen air pollution. The ban in West Bengal runs until the end of this month and has affected the livelihoods of firecracker makers as cookie sales peaked this month to coincide with the festivals of Diwali, Kali Puja, Chhath Puja and Jagaddhatri Puja. The superior court order occurred in two public interest litigation (PIL).

In dealing with the appeal filed by Gautam Roy and the Burrabazaar Fireworks Dealers Association, the high court found that the high court was right in its decision, as it weighed the need to preserve life in a time of pandemic. “We are in a situation where the preservation of life is the only priority. We have great deference for what the higher court does, since the judges are aware of the situation on the ground, ”said a bench of judges DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee.

At least seven states and Union territories have banned crackers with five othersallowing its outbreak only for a limited time. On Monday, the NGT ruled that crackers would not be allowed to pop in cities where air quality in November (based on last year’s average) was in the category of “bad” or worse. There are at least 42 cities that meet this criterion, according to HT’s analysis of 110 cities that appear in the daily pollution bulletin of the Central Board of Pollution Control. Most of the bans have gone into effect and last until the end of November.

Lead advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar, who appeared before the fireworks dealers, informed the high court that the high court had no empirical data to deny permission for the sale or use of cookies. He referred to a recent order approved by the NGT that allowed the use of green cookies for limited hours in places where the air quality is moderate. He noted that last year the SC allowed cookies to be broken on holidays for two hours at designated locations.

Interestingly, according to NGT criteria, Kolkata’s air quality was in the “poor” category last November, which means that pretzels are banned this year.

The bank was particularly concerned for the health of the elderly who were most vulnerable to respiratory problems caused by the smoke released from cookies that could be life-threatening during the pandemic.

“We all have elderly people in our homes. If anything contributes to preserving the lives of our elders, let us unite in the interest of the community, ”Judges Chandrachud and Banerjee said.

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