National Green Tribunal: While hearing an application against the non-compliance of the Madhya Pradesh Government’s directions for testing and inspection of firecrackers and for taking an undertaking from sellers of firecrackers that they will abide the directions, the two members of the Tribunal, Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr. Afroz Ahmad (Expert Member) gave slew of directions for strict compliance with the directions laid down in Arjun Gopal v. Union of India, (2019) 13 SCC 523.
The applicant’s case was that the undertaking and testing as per the Government’s directions was not carried out, which resulted in violation of the directions laid down in Arjun Gopal (supra) whereby certain categories of firecrackers were banned, and regulation of the remaining was directed by the Supreme Court. No undertakings were taken from the firecrackers sellers during the year 2022-23, resulting in aggravating the air quality index in the region and adversely affecting the public health.
The Tribunal noted that in Arjun Gopal (supra) it was held that the health of the people must take precedence over any commercial or other interest of the applicant or any of the permanent licensee and therefore a greater regulation is necessary which could eventually result in a prohibition.
The Tribunal referred to the direction laid down in Arjun Gopal (supra) that, it is on Diwali or on any other festivals like Gurupurab, etc., that such fireworks generally take place, it would strictly be from 8:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. only. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when such fireworks start around midnight i.e., 12.00 a.m., it would be from 11:55 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. only. The Union of India, Government of NCT of Delhi and the State Governments of NCR to permit community fire cracking only for Diwali and other festivals, etc., wherever it can be done. For the purpose of community fire cracking, pre-identification and pre-designation of a particular area/fields by the authorities concerned and even for marriages and other occasions, sale of improved crackers and green crackers will be only permitted.
The Tribunal said that it is unfortunate that despite the various directions issued by the Supreme Court there is a blatant violation of various directions, and the manufacture, sale and use of banned fireworks has continued. The Tribunal also said that it is reported that even under the guise of ‘green crackers’ banned chemicals firecrackers are being sold and there is a mislabeling on the boxes and even the QR codes provided on the boxes of ‘green crackers’ are alleged to be fake.
The Tribunal said that the directions issued by the Court were issued in the larger public interest as the use of banned fireworks affects the health of the other innocent citizens including the senior citizens and the children, therefore, it is the duty of all the States/State Agencies to see that the directions issued by the Court are strictly complied with. The Tribunal stated that “no authority can be permitted to violate the directions issued by the Court and permit banned firecrackers under the guise of celebration”.
Further, the Tribunal said that celebration cannot be at the cost of the other’s health and under the guise of celebration, nobody can be permitted to infringe the right to health of the others, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and nobody can be permitted to play with the life of the others, more particularly the senior citizens and the children. The Tribunal clarified that there is no total ban on use of firecrackers, but only those firecrackers are banned which are found to be injurious to health and affecting the health of the citizens, more particularly the senior citizens and the children.
The Tribunal reiterated the directions for banning the use of barium salts in the firecrackers and manufacturing and selling joined firecrackers. The States/Union Territories were directed to see that the directions issued in Arjun Gopal (supra) Court and the Tribunal are strictly complied with in its true spirit and in toto. The Tribunal also warned that any lapse on the part of the State Governments/State Agencies and Union Territories shall be viewed very seriously and if it is found that any banned firecrackers are manufactured, sold and used in any particular area, the Chief Secretary of the State concerned, the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police, District Superintendent of Police and the SHO/Police Officer in-charge of the of the area concerned shall be held personally liable.
Slew of direction given by Tribunal:
Strict compliance with the directions issued in Arjun Gopal (supra).
Directions issued by the Government of M.P for testing and inspection of firecrackers to be strictly complied with.
The use of firecrackers in cities/towns where air quality is ‘moderate’ or below was restricted to only green crackers only and for duration of not more than two hours and only for celebration of any specified festival or occasion will continue. Such festivals will be specified by the States/District Magistrates. Other than specified festivals, the prior permission of the District Magistrate of the area will be required for use of crackers for a limited period which will be given having regard to the local conditions of impact on public health. The District Magistrate was suggested to consider 24-hour average air quality regarding PM2.5 and PM10 on the corresponding date of the previous year.
The District Magistrate on a complaint or otherwise will assess and recover compensation from violators of the directions.
The District Magistrate, Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur were further directed to periodically monitor the air quality and in case of below the standard as prescribed, the necessary action must be initiated to maintain the air quality in the area.
[Dr. P.G. Najpandey v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2023 SCC OnLine NGT 387, Order Dated: 19-10-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Applicant: Advocate Prabhat Yadav