Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 2- Judge Bench comprising of A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., gave directions to be followed for burning of crackers while refusing the complete ban on the sale of firecrackers as it may lead to “extreme economic hardships” (observing without conclusively holding) and further stating that there have been lots of efforts for production of firecrackers which do not contain harmful chemicals and thereby not causing air pollution, which are even termed as Green Crackers’.

The present petition was filed by next friends of three infants concerning the health of the children as due to the alarming degradation of the air quality, leading to severe air pollution in the city of Delhi, the petitioners may encounter various health hazards. Children are much more vulnerable to air pollutants as exposure thereto may affect them in various ways. Further, they have submitted that air pollution hits its nadir during Diwali time because of indiscriminate use of firecrackers.

In light of the above submissions, the petitioners have prayed for directions to the official respondents to take possible measures for checking the pollution by sticking at the causes of the pollution.

The Supreme Court on duly considering the submissions of the parties and taking note of the reports based on earlier orders of the Supreme Court concerning the same issue, stated that bursting of firecrackers during Diwali is not the only reason for deterioration of air quality, the other reasons which contribute to the issue are unregulated construction activity and crop burning. Further, the Court stated that “our endeavor is to strive at balancing of two rights, namely, right of the petitioners under Article 21 and right of the manufacturers and traders under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.

Respondent 1, on the direction of Apex Court’s earlier order, filed an affidavit in consultation with various ministries to deal with the problems and issues as stated above, which have been accepted by the Supreme Court and further direction has been given for the implementation of the same. The directions given by the Court have been stated below in a succinct manner:

  • Complete ban on manufacture and sale of all fireworks which are high emission. Therefore all existing fireworks like sparklers, flower pots, chakras, rockets and crackers stand banned.
  • Only “green” and low emission fireworks which will have to be made in future are permitted, once cleared by PESO.
  • Any of those fireworks which are green or low emission when invented will be permitted to be used only in community areas as demarcated and not in front of everybody’s houses.
  • Any violation of the sale of prohibited fireworks or their use or the bursting of permitted fireworks in non designated areas will be the responsibility of the respective SHO who can be hauled up for contempt of the Supreme Court.
  • No E-Commerce site can sell any of the traditional Fireworks and if they do so they will be guilty of contempt of Supreme Court as well.
  • It will be the responsibility of PESO to ensure that all existing fireworks are disposed of and not permitted to be sold.
  • On Diwali days or on any other festivals like Gurupurab, when fireworks generally take place, it would strictly be from 8:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. only. On Christmas and New Year 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.
  • Union of India, Government of NCT of Delhi and the State Governments of the NCR would permit community fire cracking only (for Diwali and other festivals etc.)

Therefore, the Court having regard to the overall circumstances, decided to have a balanced approach to tackle the stated issue which may take care of the concerns of both the parties and provide a reasonable and adequate solution. [Arjun Gopal v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2118, decided on 23-10-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): A Division Bench comprising of R.K. Agrawal, J. and M. Shreesha, Member dismissed the revision petition filed against the order of Maharashtra State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission confirming payment of compensation to the respondent/complainant – farmers for supply of inferior quality of seeds by the petitioner manufacturing company.

The respondent had purchased onion seeds from the petitioners and sown the same in their fields. When even after due care, the growth of crop was unsatisfactory, they informed about the same to the petitioner and lodged a formal complaint. An enquiry committee visited the fields of the respondent and made a detailed inspection report observing that the crop failure was on account of inferior quality of seeds. Despite sending a notice to the petitioner, the respondent received no response, constraining him to approach the District Forum seeking direction to for payment of expenses incurred towards the failure of crop along with compensation and costs. After appreciating the evidence on record, District Forum ordered payment of expenses along with compensation and costs. The said order was challenged by the petitioner in State Commission, which confirmed the order of District Forum. It is in this factual background, that the instant revision petition was filed by the petitioner.

Primary contention of revision petitioners was that the State Commission had erred in not appreciating that germination of seeds depends upon environmental factors and crop management practices such as climate, moisture content, temperature, usage of fertilizers and water supply; and that no samples of seeds were sent by the respondent for analysis as mandated by Section 13(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Commission relied on judgment of the Apex Court in National Seeds Cooperation Ltd. v M. Madhusudhan Reddy, (2012) 2 SCC 506 and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd. v Alavalapati Chandra Reddy, (1998) 6 SCC 738, to state that the onus to prove that the seeds manufactured are of good quality lies on the manufacturer as the farmers are not expected to store some of the seeds for future testing. Moreover, as per the Seeds Act, 1966 manufacturer is required to keep a small sample of each batch of seeds for a minimum period of time depending upon the nature of the seeds. Therefore, there was no reason for the petitioner to not have sent the seeds to a laboratory for testing as per Section 13(1)(c) of the Consumer Protection Act.

Apart from being devoid of merits, the revision petition was also held to be barred by limitation as the same was filed with a delay of 188 days and there was no explanation as to the reason for such delay. As such, the petition was dismissed on both delay as well as merits. [National Horticulture Research & Development Foundation v. Sahebrao Jibhau Deware, Revision Petition No. 279 of 2018, decided on 28-09-2018]