Courts, Lawyers can’t Enforce SC Orders on Firecrackers ban, Social Awareness Needed, say experts

The judiciary and lawyers cannot enforce the Supreme Court’s orders on firecrackers ban and stubble burning to curb air pollution as it can be tackled by creating a mass awareness, legal experts said.

The Supreme Court’s recent order banning the manufacture and sale of firecrackers containing barium was violated across the country on Diwali leading to worsening air quality index.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who represents the main petitioner Arjun Gopal and others seeking a ban on the sale and manufacture of firecrackers, meanwhile, has decided to move a contempt petition in the top court against the law enforcement agencies for the flagrant violation of the court’s recent order.

Speaking on the violation of judicial orders, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi was of the view no contempt will work in these kinds of cases where there are many contributors to the rise in air pollution.

He said this is a social issue which can be effectively tackled creating a mass social awareness round the year.

“These are social issues. The contempt action seems to be very difficult. How many people and whom they (Supreme Court) will catch. Basically this is the issue of social awareness. People should be made more aware, I don’t find much of a role for courts and lawyers,” he said.

Dwivedi further said there are so many culprits manufacturers, sellers, retailers, buyers and those who are bursting firecrackers – and advocated for a round-the-year awareness campaign.

Advocate and environmentalist Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who is actively pursuing such cases at various judicial forums, also agreed with Dwivedi and said that a social awareness campaign is needed to get desired results and the Supreme Court orders themselves cannot curb the rising menace.

“The Supreme Court has passed several orders in the firecrackers matter but the implementing authority is the executive,” Bansal said, adding that pollution control boards and police authorities have a bigger role to play in the implementation of the court’s orders.

Dwivedi highlighted that a multi-pronged strategy was needed to deal with air pollution because bursting of firecrackers is not the only contributor.

“Politics of vote clashes with these objects. For the sake of votes you are unable to stop the farmers from burning the crop residue. You cannot take forcible actions against them. This happens every year. So it is very difficult…this is not the issue of political will alone. The question is also finding alternative means…,” he said.

The senior lawyer further pointed out that vehicular emissions are also one of the key factors.

“Crackers are not the only source of pollution…look at the number of vehicles, especially cars, and fumes emanating from them. There are multiple cars, four-five cars, in one household. The number of cars is increasing in such a way that people are unable to park them inside their homes and rather park them on roads. Roads are choked. There are many contributors to this rising pollution,” he said.

Senior advocate Arunabh Choudhary said that the rising air quality index (AQI) is a matter of grave concern for everybody and citizens must also be proactive and support the cause.

“There are many reasons for the AQI level to go up during this time of the year which includes stubble burning in the neighbouring states, bursting of firecrackers, etc. As the governments have failed to control pollution — this is same for all governments, I am not blaming any particular government — citizens have knocked the doors of the Supreme Court and it saddens me as a citizen when the orders of the Supreme Court are flouted with impunity,” he said.

Delhi recorded its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years on Sunday, with its 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) settling at 218 at 4 pm.

However, bursting of firecrackers till late Sunday night led to a spike in pollution levels amid low temperatures.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered ‘good’, 51 and 100 ‘satisfactory’, 101 and 200 ‘moderate’, 201 and 300 ‘poor’, 301 and 400 ‘very poor’, 401 and 450 ‘severe’ and above 450 ‘severe plus’.

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The AQI stood at 275 (poor category) at 7 am on Monday and gradually rose to 358 by 4 pm.

In the 24 hours ending at 4 pm on Monday, the AQI rose from 186 to 349 in Ghaziabad, from 193 to 349 in Gurugram, from 189 to 363 in Noida, from 165 to 342 in Greater Noida, and from 172 to 370 in Faridabad with intense firecracker bursting being reported in these places.

The order banning firecrackers containing barium binds every state and is not just limited to Delhi-NCR, which is reeling under severe air pollution, the Supreme Court had said.

The top court had in 2018 banned the bursting of conventional firecrackers to curb air and sound pollution.

The bench headed by Justice A S Bopanna had said, “Sensitising common people about the harmful effects of firecrackers is the key. Ironically, nowadays children don’t burst many firecrackers but elders do. It is a wrong perception that it is the duty of the court when it comes to pollution and environment protection. People have to come forward. It is for everyone to manage air and sound pollution.” PTI MNL ABA SJK

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