ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Firing Up the Fireworks Debate

Fireworks, otherwise known as “explosives,” are, above all, health, environmental and fire hazards.

In the days after thick post-Diwali smog engulfed Delhi in early November, the Supreme Court passed interim orders banning the sale of fireworks. It suspended all licences permitting their sale in the National Capital Region (NCR) and froze the granting of new licences and renewals. As this judgment itself recognises, this is an interim measure in view of the Air Quality Index in the NCR being “abysmally and threateningly severe” over that period, and does not address the larger issue of whether fireworks should be permitted for personal use.

The debate on fireworks bans and regulations is not new. In India, fireworks are regulated under the Explosives Act, 1884, the Explosives Rules, 2008, the guidelines of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (the licensing body), and so on. There have also been numerous judgments and annual Diwali-time interim orders that various courts in the country have passed. Among these, the Supreme Court’s 2005 judgment is a landmark one. It reiterated past judgments’ complete ban on the bursting of sound-emitting firecrackers between 10 pm and 6 am, and emphasised that relaxations may not be granted for any religious or social occasions. It found that the regulation of fireworks by chemical composition, size, and weight at the pre-manufacturing stage is more effective than regulating them on the basis of noise and chemical pollution after they are manufactured. It is significant that 11 years after its 2005 judgment, it is in the Court’s recent interim order that the Central Pollution Control Board has been asked to prepare a report on the harmful effects of the materials used in fireworks.

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