Pollution control



Supreme Court-min

Complete Ban on selling firecrackers in NCT

IA NO. 92862 OF 2017



IA NOS. 94427, 94429, 95202, 96202 AND 96755 OF 2017


Arjun Gopal and others (hereinafter referred to as the petitioners)
have filed Writ Petition (Civil) No. 728 of 2015 seeking wide ranging
reliefs against the use of fireworks (including fire crackers), prevention of
harmful crop burning, dumping of malba and other further steps towards
environmental purity. Along with this, the petitioners had also filed a
miscellaneous application seeking interim relief, which was numbered as
IA No.4. The petitioners had pressed for interim relief in respect of
fireworks, drawing the attention of this Court to the emergent situation
that has resulted in worsening the air quality standards in Delhi and
National Capital Region (NCR) because of extensive use of fireworks,
including fire crackers during Diwali last year. It was pointed out that
onset of winter itself deteriorates air quality in this region and it gets
aggravated because of festival/marriage season that occurs during
these very months. Taking note of the aforesaid factors, particularly
impact of fireworks on the ambient air and unhealthy effects thereof
which had created unprecedented situation in Delhi, with air pollution
going up at alarming levels and making it the most polluted city in the
world. Air pollution had gone up to 29 times above, the World Health
Organisation (WHO) standards. In the aforesaid scenario, this Court
deemed it proper to pass certain directions vide its order dated
November 11, 2016 in IA No.4. Snapping the supply chain of fireworks
was considered to be the more practical way of addressing the menace
instead of banning the burning the crackers by individuals as it would

have been difficult to monitor and enforce the burning of the crackers by
the citizenry.
2) In paragraph 18 of the Order dated November 11, 2016 it was clarified
that much was left to be heard, discussed and said about the rival claims
and contentions. However, the Court hastened to add that harmful
effects of fireworks on the ambient air and the lungs, eyes and ears of
people was also an acknowledged fact, as can be seen from the
following portion of the said paragraph:
“18. We are aware that we are only issuing interim directions,
and much is left to be heard, discussed and said about the
rival claims and contentions. What is however indisputable is
that the harmful effects of fireworks on the ambient air and the
lungs, eyes and ears of people. What is also obvious is the
extreme nuisance, noise the fireworks cause to citizens
particularly the ailing and the aged. Therefore, though much
can be argued as always about the significance and even joy
of bursting fireworks, but at the same time (sic), prima facie, a
just constitutional balance must overwhelmingly prioritize the
harmful effects of this hazardous air on present and future
generations, irreversible and imperceptible as they are, over
the immediate commercial constraints of the manufacturers
and suppliers of fireworks…”
3) In the process, this Court also recognised the duty of the State to ensure
a healthy environment in terms of Article 48A of the Constitution of India
as well as the duty of the citizens to ensure the same under Article
51A(g) of the Constitution. The Court also reminded itself of the
“precautionary principle” which mandates that where there are threats of

serious and irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty should not be
used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental
degradation. In the order the Court had taken note of the deleterious
effects of air pollution on the health of the people, particularly the
children. Going by all these considerations, the Court passed the
following directions:
“19. We thus consider it inappropriate that explosives which
are used as fireworks should be available in the market in the
NCR till further orders. The mechanism of the law in this
regard is clear. Rule 118 of the Explosive Rules, 2008,
framed under the Explosives Act, 1884, provides for the
manner in which licenses issued under the Explosives Act to
store and sell explosives could be suspended or cancelled.
Sub-Rule (5) thereof specifically confers on the Central
Government a power to suspend or cancel a license if it
considers that it is in public interest. This provision also
makes it clear that an opportunity to hear the licensee could
be dispensed with if the Central Government considers that in
public interest. This Court finds that the grave air quality
situation in NCR is one such case, where this Court, can
intervene and suspend the licenses to store and sell fireworks
in the NCR. We direct the Central Government to:
(i) Suspend all such licenses as permit sale of
fireworks, wholesale and retail within the territory of
(ii) The suspension shall remain in force till further
orders of this Court.
(iii) No such licenses shall be granted or renewed till further
20. In addition to the above, we direct the CPCB to study and
prepare a report on the harmful effects of the materials which
are currently being used in the manufacture of fireworks. The
report shall be submitted within a period of three months to
this Court.”

4) Since direction was given to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
to study and prepare a report of the harmful effects of the materials
which are currently being used in the manufacture of fireworks and
submit a report within three months, the matter was taken up for
consideration thereafter from time to time. It is not necessary to give the
details of the orders which were passed in this behalf. In the meantime,
the manufacturers of fire crackers as well as licence holders also filed
applications for modification of the said interim order; one such
application being — IA No. 52448 of 2017, which has culminated in
passing the orders dated September 12, 2017. A perusal of this order
clinchingly reveals that the Court has recognised the serious problem of
air pollution in Delhi and NCR and the manner in which it has worsened
due to fireworks during Diwali days in the year 2016. The Court also
took note of the steps which were taken from time to time by various
authorities to reduce air pollution and after the passing of the aforesaid
order dated November 11, 2016. The Court also discussed the
provisions of the Explosives Act, 1884 and the Explosive Rules, 2008
framed thereunder and further steps which were required to be taken in
this behalf.
5) In this Order as well, the Court has acknowledged the dire need for
improving air quality, which was the result of various reasons (burning of
crackers/ fireworks being one of them) as well as importance of
elimination of air pollution which was paramount for the health of the
residents of Delhi and NCR. The Court also accepted that one of the
possible methods for reducing it during Diwali is by continuing the
suspension of licences for the sale of fireworks, thereby implicitly
prohibiting the bursting of fireworks. However, at the same time, the
Court expressed the opinion that continuing the suspension of licences
might be too radical a step to take for the present. It was deemed
appropriate to adopt a graded and balanced approach, which is
necessary that will reduce and gradually eliminate air pollution in Delhi
and in the NCR, caused by the bursting of fireworks. In the process, the
Court took into consideration the interest of those who had already been
granted a valid permanent licence to posses and sell fireworks in Delhi
and the NCR. We would like to reproduce the following paragraphs from
the said order:
“67. The right to health coupled with the right to breathe
clean air leaves no manner of doubt that it is important that air
pollution deserves to be eliminated and one of the possible
methods of reducing it during Diwali is by continuing the
suspension of licences for the sale of fireworks and therefore
implicitly, prohibiting the bursting of fireworks.
68. In our considered opinion, continuing the suspension of
licences might be too radical a step to take for the present – a
graded and balanced approach is necessary that will reduce
and gradually eliminate air pollution in Delhi and in the NCR
caused by the bursting of fireworks. At the same time it is
necessary to ensure that injustice is not caused to those who
have already been granted a valid permanent licence to
possess and sell fireworks in Delhi and the NCR. The graded
and balanced approach is not intended to dilute our primary

concern which is and remains the health of everybody and the
human right to breathe good quality air or at least not be
compelled to breathe poor quality air. Generally speaking this
must take precedence over the commercial or other interest
of the applicant and those granted a permanent licence to
possess and sell fireworks.
69. But, from the material before us, it cannot be said with
any great degree of certainty that the extremely poor quality
of air in Delhi in November and December 2016 was the
result only of bursting fireworks around Diwali. Certainly,
there were other causes as well, but even so the contribution
of the bursting of fireworks cannot be glossed over.
Unfortunately, neither is it possible to give an accurate or
relative assessment of the contribution of the other identified
factors nor the contribution of bursting fireworks to the poor
air quality in Delhi and in the NCR. Consequently, a complete
ban on the sale of fireworks would be an extreme step that
might not be fully warranted by the facts available to us.
There is, therefore, some justification for modifying the interim
order passed on 11th November, 2016 and lifting the
suspension of the permanent licences.
70. At the same time, it cannot be forgotten that admittedly
there is a huge quantity of fireworks in Delhi and in the NCR
and the figure has been provided to us by the applicant.
Similarly, there can be no doubt that the Delhi Police had
issued a large number of temporary licences in 2016 and it
would not be unreasonable to assume that around and during
Diwali, there would have been some illegal temporary shops
set up, whether known or not known to the police. We do not
have the figures with regard to the NCR, but we assume that
like in Delhi, a large number of temporary licences have been
issued for the possession and sale of fireworks. Therefore,
there is a need to regulate the availability and sale of
fireworks in Delhi and the NCR.”
6) It is followed by the following directions:
“71. As mentioned above, the health of the people in Delhi
and in the NCR must take precedence over any commercial
or other interest of the applicant or any of the permanent
licensees and, therefore, a graded regulation is necessary
which would eventually result in a prohibition. Taking all
factors into consideration, we are of the view that the
following orders and directions are required to be issued and
we do so:
(1) The directions issued by this Court in Sadar Bazar Fire
Works (Pucca Shop) Association shall stand partially
modified to the extent that they are not in conformity with the
Explosives Rules which shall be implemented in full by the
concerned authorities. Safety from fire hazards is one of our
concerns in this regard.
(2) Specifically, Rule 15 relating to marking on explosives and
packages and Rule 84 relating to temporary shops for
possession and sale of fireworks during festivals of the
Explosives Rules shall be strictly enforced. This should not be
construed to mean that the other Rules need not be enforced
– all Rules should be enforced. But if the fireworks do not
conform to the requirements of Rules 15 and 84, they cannot
be sold in the NCR, including Delhi and this prohibition is
(3) The directions issued and restrictions imposed in the order
passed by this Court on 18th July, 2005 in Noise Pollution
(V) shall continue to be in force.
(4) The concerned police authorities and the District
Magistrates will ensure that fireworks are not burst in silence
zones that is, an area at least 100 meters away from
hospitals, nursing homes, primary and district health-care
centres, educational institutions, courts, religious places or
any other area that may be declared as a silence zone by the
concerned authorities.
(5) The Delhi Police is directed to reduce the grant of
temporary licences by about 50% of the number of licences
granted in 2016. The number of temporary licences should be
capped at 500. Similarly, the States in the NCR are restrained
from granting more than 50% of the number of temporary
licences granted in 2016. The area of distribution of the
temporary licences is entirely for the authorities to decide.
(6) The Union of India will ensure strict compliance with the
Notification GSR No. 64(E) dated 27th January, 1992
regarding the ban on import of fireworks. The Union of India is
at liberty to update and revise this notification in view of the
passage of time and further knowledge gained over the last
25 years and issue a fresh notification, if necessary.
(7) The Department of Education of the Government of NCT
of Delhi and the corresponding Department in other States in
the NCR shall immediately formulate a plan of action, in not
more than 15 days, to reach out to children in all the schools
through the school staff, volunteers and NGOs to sensitize
and educate school children on the health hazards and
ill-effects of breathing polluted air, including air that is polluted
due to fireworks. School children should be encouraged to
reduce, if not eliminate, the bursting of fireworks as a part of
any festivities.
(8) The Government of NCT of Delhi and other States in the
NCR may consider interacting with established medical
institutions for issuing advisories cautioning people about the
health hazards of bursting fireworks.
(9) The interim direction issued by this Court on 31st July,
2017 prohibiting the use of compounds of antimony, lithium,
mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of fireworks is
made absolute. In addition, the use of strontium chromate in
the manufacture of fireworks is prohibited.
(10) Fireworks containing aluminium, sulphur, potassium and
barium may be sold in Delhi and in the NCR, provided the
composition already approved by PESO is maintained. It is
the responsibility of PESO to ensure compliance of the
standards it has formulated.
(11) Since there are enough fireworks available for sale in
Delhi and the NCR, the transport of fireworks into Delhi and
the NCR from outside the region is prohibited and the
concerned law enforcement authorities will ensure that there
is no further entry of fireworks into Delhi and the NCR till
further orders. In our opinion, even 50,00,000 kg of fireworks
is far more than enough for Dussehra and Diwali in 2017. The
permanent licensees are at liberty to exhaust their existing
stock of fireworks in Delhi and the NCR and, if that is not
possible, take measures to transport the stocks outside Delhi
and the NCR.
(12) The suspension of permanent licences as directed by the
order dated 11th November, 2016 is lifted for the time being.
This might require a review after Diwali depending on the
ambient air quality post Diwali. However, it is made explicit
that the sale of fireworks by the permanent licensees must
conform to the directions given above and must be fully in
compliance with the Explosives Rules. We were informed that
the permanent licences were issued by PESO and therefore
the responsibility is on PESO to ensure compliance.
(13) While lifting the suspension on the permanent licences
already granted, we put these licensees on notice for
Dussehra and Diwali in 2018 that they will be permitted to
possess and sell only 50% of the quantity permitted in 2017
and that this will substantially reduce over the next couple of
years. The permanent licensees are at liberty to file objections
to this proposed direction within 30 days from today and
thereafter the objections if any will be heard and decided. If
no objections are filed, this direction will become absolute
without any further reference to any licensee.
(14) Since there is a lack of clarity on the safety limits of
various metals and constituents used in fireworks, a research
study must be jointly carried out by the CPCB and the FDRC
laying down appropriate standards for ambient air quality in
relation to the bursting of fireworks and the release of their
constituents in the air. While Schedule VII of the Environment
(Protection) Rules, 1986 does deal with several metals, but as
we have seen there are several other metals or constituents
of fireworks that have not been studied by the CPCB and no
standards have been laid down with regard to the
concentration of these metals or constituents in the ambient
air. The CPCB has assured us that it will complete the
exercise by 15th September, 2017 but keeping in mind its
track record subsequent to the order dated 11th November,
2016 this does not seem possible. Therefore, we grant time to
the CPCB to come out with definite standards on or before
30th September, 2017.
(15) In any event, a research study also needs to be
conducted on the impact of bursting fireworks during
Dussehra and Diwali on the health of the people. We,
therefore, appoint a Committee to be chaired by the
Chairperson of the CPCB and consisting of officers at the
appropriate level from the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi,
the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences,
Timarpur, Delhi, the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur,
scientists from the State Pollution Control Boards, the Fire
Development and Research Centre, Sivakasi and Nagpur and
the National Environment Engineering Research Institute
(NEERI) nominated by the Chairperson of the CPCB to
submit a report in this regard preferably on or before 31st
December, 2017.
(16) Keeping in mind the adverse effects of air pollution, the
human right to breathe clean air and the human right to
health, the Central Government and other authorities should
consider encouraging display fireworks through community
participation rather than individual bursting of fireworks.”
7) After the aforesaid order is passed, many applications (subject matter of
this Order) have been filed seeking modification of some of the aforesaid
directions. Pertinently, such applications have come from both sides.
8) As far as the petitioners are concerned, they have filed IA No. 96202 of
2017 with the prayer for modification of the order by removing direction
Nos. 5 and 10 to 13. In essence, it is submitted that earlier order dated
November 11, 2016, which suspended the issuance of licences in full,
be restored.
IA No. 95202 of 2017 is filed by manufacturers of the fireworks
wherein it is prayed that suspension order dated November 11, 2016
should not have been removed partially, and the said suspension order
be lifted in its entirety.
IA No. 96755 of 2017 is preferred by the temporary licence holders
who are concerned with direction No.1 in the order dated September 12,
2017. Though, the applicants in this application accept the fact that
Rule 86 of the Explosive Rules lays down the requirement of distance
which is to be maintained by such licensees from other places like
schools, hospitals, residences, educational institutions, etc. to ensure
that the places from which these crackers are sold do not become fire
hazards, submission is that notwithstanding the aforesaid Rule, since
the temporary licence holders are allowed to operate within the vicinity
for last number of years, they should be granted at least one more year
to bring their operations in conformity with the said Rules. In this
application they have also sought modification of direction No.5 whereby
Delhi Police is directed to reduce the grant of temporary licences by
about 50% of the number of licences which were granted in 2016.
Request made is that the number should not be reduced drastically by
half and reduction should have been much lesser than 50%.
IA No. 92862 of 2017 is filed by certain manufacturers of these
fireworks with the submission that direction No.11 should be modified
and these manufacturers who are having their depots where their stocks
of fireworks are lying in the NCR, there should be free flow of
transportation of these fireworks between Delhi and NCR.
IA No. 94427 of 2017 is an application filed by an NGO seeking
impleadment in the writ petition and it has also filed IA No. 94429 of
2017 praying for similar reliefs as that of the petitioners, viz. prohibiting
manufacture, suspension/ cancellation of manufacturing licences and
prohibiting issuance of temporary licences during Diwali 2017.
9) It is clear from the aforesaid that whereas the petitioners on the one
hand want restoration of the order of complete suspension of licences by
restoring the Order passed on November 11, 2016, the manufacturers,
traders and licence holders of the fireworks/fire crackers want that the
relaxation given in the impugned order should be further liberalised. In a
way, both the parties are seeking review of the said order by filing these
miscellaneous applications.
10) It is a matter of record that all these parties were heard at length
before passing the judgment dated September 12, 2017. Moreover, as
already pointed out above, even the judgment dated September 12,
2017 accepts the problem of air pollution. No doubt, it mentions that
bursting of fire crackers is not the only cause for alarming air pollution in
Delhi and NCR, but it is also acknowledged that it is one of the major
causes. It is also recorded in the judgment that on bursting of these
crackers during Diwali in 2016, the air quality had sharply deteriorated.
Notwithstanding the same, the Court deemed it proper to adopt graded
approach in reducing and gradually eliminating of air pollution in Delhi
and in NCR caused by bursting of fire crackers. Because of this reason,
rigours of order dated November 11, 2016 are relaxed to the extent
indicated in the said order. In such a scenario, question of further
relaxation, as pleaded by the manufacturers and licence holders does
not arise. We may point out that M/s. C.A. Sundaram and Neeraj K.
Kaul, learned senior counsel as well as other counsel for these
applicants had made detailed submissions in this behalf pointing out
various difficulties. However, at the same time, it also could not be
disputed that these were the submissions which were made when the
matter was heard earlier and culminated in the Orders dated September
12, 2017. For this reason, we are not recording the said submissions in
detail. We will, however, like to remark that we bestowed our
consideration on these submissions but are not inclined to accept the
same. The argument of Mr. C.A. Sundaram was that bursting of
crackers was not the only cause of air pollution. There were various
other reasons attributable to the aforesaid phenomena. He even
attempted to demonstrate that the use of fireworks including fire
crackers contributed negligibly in worsening the air quality standards in
Delhi and NCR. However, the material that was relied upon in support
of this submission may not be relevant in the context. These studies
indicate the air quality standards in Delhi and NCR which generally
prevail throughout the year. It cannot be denied that there are various
other factors which contribute to the air pollution in Delhi and NCR.
There is a need to tackle those factors as well. However, what is the
immediate impact of use of fireworks and fire crackers bursting during
Diwali is an altogether different aspect. To this effect, nothing relevant is
produced. On the contrary, we have the direct evidence of deterioration
of air quality at alarming levels, which happens every year. As already
pointed out above, burning of these fire crackers during Diwali in 2016
had shot up pm levels by three times, making Delhi the worst city in the
world, insofar as air pollution is concerned. Direct and immediate cause
thereof was burning of crackers during Diwali. It is interesting to note
that every year before Diwali there are attempts on the part of the
Government (Ministry of Environment, Government of India as well as
Delhi Government), Media, NGOs and various other groups to create
awareness in the general public about the ill-effects of bursting of these
crackers. Campaigns are held in the schools wherein children are
discouraged to have fireworks. Thus, there is virtually a consensus in
the society that crackers should not be burnt during Diwali, which can be
celebrated with equal fervour by various other means as well. Irony is
that when causes are brought in the Court, there is resistance from
certain quarters. It cannot be denied that there are adequate statutory
provisions, aid whereof can be taken to ban the sale of these crackers.
It is one of the functions of the judges, in a democracy, to bridge the
gap between law and the society. Here, furtunately, there is no such
gap and the Court is only become facilitator in invoking the law to fulfill
the need of the society.
11) Insofar as argument of Mr. Neeraj K. Kaul, learned senior counsel
who appeared for temporary licence holders in I.A. No. 96755 of 2017,
suffice it to state that Explosive Rules have to be strictly followed and
complied with. It is for this reason that Mr. Kaul could not find fault with
Direction No. 1 in the Orders dated September 12, 2017. These Rules
came into force in the year 2008. They are in operation for almost 9
years. Giving further time to these licence holders for complying with
the said statutory provisions is out of question.
12) Accordingly, IA Nos. 92862, 95202 and 96755 of 2017 are
13) Coming to IA No. 96202 of 2017, we may state at the cost of
repetition that the petitioners in the writ petition were also heard when
the aforesaid order was passed. Further, we are not sitting in appeal
over the judgment dated September 12, 2017. However, learned
counsel for the petitioner has made an emphatic and passionate plea on
the following three counts:
(a) In the judgment dated September 12, 2017 the Court has chosen
to adopt graded approach. However, at that time it was not within
the knowledge of the petitioners as well as the Court that the
CPCB had taken a stand, nearly 20 years ago, that Sulphur in
fireworks should not be permitted as Sulphur on combustion
produces Sulphur Dioxide and the same is extremely harmful to
health. The CPCB has in the said proceedings stated that
between 9:00 pm to midnight on Diwali day the levels of Sulphur
Dioxide content in the air is dangerously high. Moreover, all the
above authorities were also unanimous in their view that crackers
should only be burst in designated places. Also the CPCB had
specifically stated that joined crackers should be banned by way of
their letter dated November 04, 1996 to the Commissioner of
Police. Neither the CPCB nor the Delhi Police divulged this fact to
this Court.
Insofar as this plea is concerned, except that similar attempt made
in proceeding before Delhi High Court 20 years’ ago, no fresh
material has been brought on record. The stand taken by the
CPCB at that time was the same which was taken before this
Court when Orders dated November 11, 2016 or September 12,
2017 were passed. CPCB, therefore, has been consistent in its
stand. This was stressed by Mr. Panjwani, learned counsel
appearing for CPCB before us as well, who even took the decision
of supporting the ban. Therefore, in substance, it is not the new
material which is brought. On the contrary, we find that the main
objective behind this move, by making reference to the aforesaid
proceedings in Delhi High Court and in the process filing one
particular annexure which was the report submitted at that time to
the Court, was an attempt to take the matter away from a particular
Bench. This is not a healthy practice. We denounce the same and
place on record our strongest condemnation. We are leaving the
matter at that simply because of the reason that insofar as present
petition is concerned it has raised a very important public cause
and it needs serious and adequate consideration.
(b) Another submission was that when the Order dated November 11,
2016 was passed suspending the licences, the primary reason for
passing such an order was rising of pm levels at alarming
proportion because of burning of crackers during Diwali, which had
direct impact thereupon. Insofar as harmful effect of the materials
used in the manufacture of fireworks is concerned, that is another
aspect and it is on this aspect that the CPCB was directed to carry
out further studies. Therefore, insofar as suspension of the
licences is concerned, there was no reason to relax that condition.
(c) It was further pointed out that the previous Order dated November
11, 2016 was passed immediately after Diwali. But the effect of
that order would not be discernible as in the judgment dated
September 12, 2017, the said order stands relaxed. It was
pleaded that at least for one Diwali season this suspension should
have continued in order to find out the effect thereof.
14) These aspects highlighted by the learned counsel appear to be
convincing. We are of the view that the order suspending the licences
should be given one chance to test itself in order to find out as to
whether there would be positive effect of this suspension, particularly
during Diwali period. Insofar as adverse effects of burning of crackers
during Diwali are concerned, those have been witnessed year after year.
The air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city
chokes thereby. It leads to closing the schools and the authorities are
compelled to take various measures on emergent basis, when faced
with “health emergency” situation. This very situation had occurred on
the very next morning after Diwali in the year 2016. It resulted in
passing the order dated November 11, 2016. This order prevailed
during the year but the impact and effect of this order remains to be
tested on Diwali days. Going by these considerations, we are of the
opinion that the judgment dated September 12, 2017 passed by this
Court should be made effective only from November 01, 2017. To put it
clearly, though we are not tweaking with the various directions contained
in the Orders dated September 12, 2017, the effect of that Order would
not be given during this Diwali and, therefore, we are making it effective
only from November 01, 2017. We are conscious of the fact that after
the said order was passed, the police may have issued temporary
licences. Accordingly, those are suspended forthwith so that there is no
further sale of the crackers in Delhi and NCR. Further orders in this
behalf can be passed on assessing the situation that would emerge after
this Diwali season. IA No. 96202 of 2017 is ordered accordingly.
IA Nos. 94427 and 94429 of 2017 stand disposed of in the
aforesaid terms.


OCTOBER 09, 2017.