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Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee, JJ., directed the State to ensure that there is no use of firecrackers at all during Diwali celebrations and Kali Puja.

The instant application was filed in regard to the upcoming celebrations. There was another application by an unregistered body that could be loosely called the firecrackers’ association.

Verbal Advisories | Firecrackers

State has issued verbal advisories pertaining to firecrackers during Kali Puja and Diwali celebrations. Guidelines were framed regarding Kali Puja pandals.

State had made an appeal for all kinds of firecrackers not to be used this year in view of pandemic and the virus that attacks the respiratory system.

Further, the State submitted that the matter pertaining to firecrackers was still pending before the National Green Tribunal and orders have been reserved. In view of the same, State suggested that in the light of such specialised body having taken up the matter pertaining to firecrackers all over the country, such aspect may be left to the Tribunal and not gone into in the present proceedings.

In addition to the Kali Puja, Jagadhatri Puja and Kartick Puja pandals, the petitioners referred to the congregations on the day of Kali Puja at temples all over the State. The petitioners sought appropriate directions for the maintenance of Covid protocol in temples and for crowding not to be allowed within close spaces.

In view of notifications issued from time to time by the Centre that relaxations have been made for open-air congregations, though the wearing of face-masks or the use of face-shields has been made mandatory. Stricter protocols are required for gatherings indoors.

Since public Kali pujas are many more than Durga pujas and some of the pandals are much smaller, the guidelines issued for Durga Puja pandals are somewhat modified as follows:

(i) All pandals will continue to be No-Entry Zones, including an area of five-metre beyond the pandals on all the open sides. Only dhakis will be permitted to occupy the space beyond the pandals and within the five-metre zone thereafter. Except for dhakis, the five-metre zone has to be kept completely free at all times.

(ii) For the smaller pandals, where the covered area excluding the dais is upto 150 square metre, only 10 persons may be in such covered area at any given point of time. For pandals with a covered area between 150 square metre and 300 square metre excluding the dais, the number of persons at any point of time may be 15. For bigger pandals, in excess of 300 square metre in area excluding the dais, a maximum of 45 persons can be within the pandals at any given point of time.

(iii) Sanitisers must be available at the puja pandals and wearing of masks will be mandatory within and around the pandal area. The distancing norm has to be maintained at all times both within the pandals and in an around the pandals.

(iv) Immersions should be low-key affairs and processions for such purpose will not be permitted. The use of bands and lights at the time of immersion will also remain prohibited. It will be open to the local police to provide for staggered timings so that the immersion ghats are not overcrowded.

Firecrackers

Bench stated that the State should ensure that there is no use or display or bursting of firecrackers at all during the Kali puja and Diwali celebrations. Only wax or oil-based diyas would suffice, for the greater good of the citizens and in the larger public interest.

“…direction as to firecrackers will be effective all over the State and will cover not only the Kali Puja and Diwali celebrations, but also the Chhat Puja, Jagadhatri Puja and Guru Nanak’s birthday celebrations thereafter.”

Court directed the police to ensure that there is no sale or purchase of firecrackers in any form in the State between now and the end of the month and any kind of like material which has the potential to pollute the air shall be confiscated.

State will ensure that no firecrackers of any kind are brought into the State, except for immediate transit to another State.

As far as the application by the firecrackers’ association is concerned, it will be for the State to consider whether appropriate compensation or other measures can be taken.

For the greater good, a small number of persons involved in the firecracker business may have to suffer losses. The overwhelming public interest cannot be compromised.

Bench also stated that local police should ensure that COVID protocol is maintained in the temples including the distancing norms.

Local administration and police will ensure that there is no overcrowding within the temple precincts or outside.

For the other aspects, particularly with regard to the Chhat Puja and the kind of processions that may be allowed for Chhat Puja celebrations, the matter has been posted for 10-11-2020. [Anasua Bhattacharya v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 2056, decided on 05-11-2020]