Apex Court Issues Notice In Plea against Alleged Use of Banned Chemicals by Fireworks Manufacturers

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Apex Court orders against the use of banned chemicals by firework manufacturers.
  • The Court also holds the mislabelling of product description of fireworks in contempt of its orders.
  • The matter is listed to be heard again on the 19th of April, 2021.

OVERVIEW

On Thursday, the 8th of April, 2021, the Supreme Court issued a notice in consideration of an application that was filed against the alleged use of chemicals by firework manufacturers which had earlier been directed to be banned by the Apex Court and thereafter mislabelling of such products contrary to directions issued by the Supreme Court.

In 2015, bench of the Supreme Court heard a plea which had been filed by the parents of three infants expressing concerns over the alarmingly degrading qualities of air in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi post the celebrations of Diwali due to the mass burning of firecrackers which were manufactured with harmful chemicals in it. It had sought the complete ban of bursting of firecrackers throughout the country in order to mitigate the dangers of such increased air pollution.

BACKGROUND

It was during the hearing of this case that the apex Court had been reminded of its earlier order issued on the 18th of July, 2005 in Noise Pollution (V), in Re 5 SCC 733, where the Court had directed the Department of Explosives (DOE) to “specify the proportion/composition as well as the maximum permissible weight of every chemical used in manufacturing firecrackers.”

In July 2017, the Supreme Court had, in its order by a bench comprising Justices Madan B. Lakur and Deepak Gupta had observed the dangerous impact of the use of some of the chemicals that are used widespread in the stated that “that no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in any form whatsoever. It is the responsibility of the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) to ensure compliance particularly in Sivakasi.”

RIGHT TO BREATHE CLEAN AIR IS A RIGHT TO LIFE

The air pollution level in the country has been one of grave concern, considering the adverse impact of the same on the health conditions of the people of old age, infants, and people with heart or lung diseases, and also on the overall quality of life of the people.

The right to breathe clean air falls under the ambit of the Right to life as has been enshrined in the Constitution under Article 21. It, being a fundamental right is to be enforced by the Supreme Court and intervention of the apex Court may be sought on being deprived of such rights.

The whole of India, especially the National Capital Region (NCR) Delhi has been the victim of heightened air pollution. The magnitude of air pollution in Delhi in particular and other states such as West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc. in general is as high as up to 29 % of the permissible air pollution level as notified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The ways in which such air pollution can be curbed can be manifold, but the impact of firecrackers on the quality of air and the contribution of the chemicals emitted from such bursting are as follows:

  1. The chemical footprints from the bursting of the crackers are extremely dangerous as they pack themselves with the dust and pollutants already present in the air, making them heavier.
  2. The adverse impact on the health of the people who breath in such air is noteworthy. The detrimental effect of the inhalation of such polluted air especially by the people of old age with heart and lungs ailments are voluminous. Children also fall prey to the harmful impacts of such pollutant chemicals released during the bursting, due to their weak immune systems and inability of their system to detoxify.
  3. The colouring agent, stabiliser and binder used in the manufacture of the firecrackers aid to the further fall in the already poor quality of air. Compounds like lithium and copper which are emitted during such burning results in hormonal imbalance. It has proved to be detrimental to both mental and physical growth in infants and unborn children. They are also very poisonous to plants and animals. The accumulation of such compounds might even prove to be fatal for infants. The by-products of such emission, such as nitrogen dioxide is not only highly poisonous, but has also been known to be the source of acid rain.
  4. A notable aftermath of the decrease in quality of air is the resultant respiratory problems and cancer. The carcinogens released by the chemicals result in a hike in the reported cases of lung cancer and skin cancer, and a reported 30-40% increase in ailments such as bronchial asthma, respiratory problems and bronchitis suffered by the people.

FURTHER DETAILS

Senior Adv Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who was representing the applicant in the instant case, had submitted before the Court, reminding the Hon’ble Court abut the filing of such Interlocutory application, and the erstwhile directions that were issued by the Court about replies to be filed in that regard.

The learned counsel appearing for the Crime Investigation Bureau (CBI), Additional Solicitor General of India, Aishwarya Bhati informed the Court of the completion of such investigation by the CBI. The report for the same had also been filed before the Court in secrecy inside a sealed envelope in accordance with the directions issued by the Hon’ble Court regarding the same.

In March, 2020, it was brought to the attention of the Court by learned Adv Gopal Sankaranarayanan of how many manufacturers have been using the banned chemicals for the manufacture of firecrackers contrary to the express directions of the Court in this regard in a few previous orders and judgements.

CONCLUSION

It was also noted by the Court that a lot of such manufacturers were not even complying with the labelling requirements vide order issued in 2017. Many of the manufacturers have been mislabelling the packages of the firecrackers where such banned chemicals are being used for the manufacture.

The court had entrusted to the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) the responsibility of ensuring compliance of the stated orders. Such compliance was to be carried out especially in the area of Sivakasi, which is regarded as the hub of manufacturers of firecrackers. According to the reports of PESO, an approximate number of 800 factories are present in Sivasaki which in a way forms the main form of employment in the area. The residents of that area, who earn their livelihood mostly from the manufacturing and sale of firecrackers in a commercial scale, would be in the most dire situation if the Hon’ble Court puts a ban on the manufacture and bursting of all types of crackers due to non-compliance of the Court orders.

The Court further held that “The governmental authorities need to realize their responsibility regarding the care and protection of the health of the people in Delhi and NCR and the importance of launching a sustained campaign to reduce air pollution to manageable limits during Diwali and the period immediately thereafter. The health of children should be of foremost concern in this regard.”

The Court thereby pronounced that “the interlocutory applications seeking impleadment, intervention, directions, modification, etc. are disposed of.”

The Hon’ble Court would next hear the matter of Aditya Dubey and Another v. Union of India and Ors. on 19.04.2021.

 

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