“Right to live in healthy environment is more important than personal enjoyment”: SC

Case Number: – WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 728 OF 2015

Judges: – J. A.K. SIKRI, J. ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE AND J. ASHOK BHUSHAN

Name of the Case: – ARJUN GOPAL AND OTHERS VERSUS UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS

 

BRIEF OF THE FACTS: – Petitioner 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.

 

APPLICANT (ARGUMENTS): –

  1. 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 15 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.

 

RESPONDANT(ARGUMENT)

  1. learned senior counsel who appeared for temporary licence holders in I.A. No. 96755 of 2017, 16 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.

 

DECISION: –

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.

 

RATIO DECIDENDI: – “right to live in healthy environment is more important than the personnel enjoyment”

 

 

(This is submitted by Rohit Madhani, a Law student from Kochi)

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