National Green Tribunal (NGT): The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member), Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Members), issue notice to consider whether the use of firecrackers may be banned for the period from 07-11-2020 to 30-11-2020 in the interest of public health and environment.
Issue raised in the present application is in regard to the remedial action against pollution by the use of firecrackers against pollution by use of firecrackers in NCR during the time air quality is unsatisfactory with potential of severity of COVID-19 pandemic.
Present application has been filed in reference to the statement by Delhi’s Health Minister and Union Health Minister that during the festive season there will be rise on COVID cases due to air pollution. Further, it was added that the use of ‘green crackers’ won’t be a remedial option in view of the present situation.
“The smoke will choke and may create gas chamber like situation. It will lead to poor visibility, hazy conditions and asphyxia.”
Supreme Court had considered the issue in regard to firecrackers in light of right to clean environment in the.
In Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2017) 1 SCC 412, it was noted that air quality standards in Delhi are from ‘poor’ to ‘severe’ during winter resulting in the potential of diseases. Directions that were issued in the said decision were:
- Suspend all such licenses as permit sale of fireworks, wholesale and retail, within the territory of NCR.
- The suspension shall remain in force till further orders of this Court.
- No such licenses shall be granted or renewed till further orders.
Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2017) 16 SCC 280, It was noted that, the health of the people has to take precedence over any commercial or other interests, graded regulation of firecrackers was necessary which would eventually result in prohibition. Accordingly, directions were issued to restrict the temporary licenses to 50%, pending further consideration.
Supreme Court in Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2019) 13 SCC 523, while banning certain categories of firecrackers and directing regulation of the remaining, directed that on Diwali days or other festivals, firecrackers will be used strictly between 8 p. to 10 pm only with different timings for some other festivals.
In Supreme Court’s decision of Noise Pollution (V), In Re., (2005) 5 SCC 733, directions were issued with regard to the noise level of the crackers.
It has been stated in the present application that the above-cited Supreme Court decisions do not address the COVID-19 situation wherein the adverse effect may be so that the number of deaths may increase along with the number of diseases.
It has been added that several reports in public domain state that the air quality of Delhi is deteriorating and further deterioration may give rise to an increase in COVID cases.
Since the firecrackers emit poisonous gases like SO2, NOX, CO as well as the metal besides creating noise. In the given climatic conditions, this may result in respiratory/pulmonary diseases, diabetic, hypertension and other diseases.
Experts have also opined on clear nexus of air pollution with COVID-19. With increased air pollution, virus can cause more damage.
On noting the above stated, Tribunal issued notice to the MoEF&CC, CPCB, DPCC, Police Commissioner, Delhi, Governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on the question whether the use of firecrackers may be banned for the period from 07-11-2020 to 30-11-2020 in the interest of public health and environment.
Bench requested Raj Panjwani, Senior Advocate along with Advocate Shibani Ghosh to assist the Tribunal as amicus.
Matter to be listed don 05-11-2020.[Indian Social Responsibility Network v. Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change; 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 858, decided on 02-11-2020]