Friday hearing against Delhi cracker sale ban

The Supreme Court has decided to take up tomorrow a plea to withdraw its ban on selling firecrackers in the National Capital Region following an intervention application that said bursting crackers was an "integral part of Diwali" involving cultural and religious rights.

By Our Legal Correspondent
  • Published 13.10.17
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New Delhi, Oct. 12: The Supreme Court has decided to take up tomorrow a plea to withdraw its ban on selling firecrackers in the National Capital Region following an intervention application that said bursting crackers was an "integral part of Diwali" involving cultural and religious rights.

Indic Collective, a Chennai-based civil liberties organisation that filed the application, said the October 9 order would have an impact on "Indic cultural and religious rights not only in Delhi and the National Capital Region, but... such rights all over the country".

The top court's pre-Diwali order had come on a public interest plea and seemed primarily aimed at choking off a possible cause for the rise in pollution between October and December.

There was, however, no ban on bursting firecrackers in the NCR region, which also includes pockets of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The application by Indic Collective requested that the court strike a balance between concerns over air pollution and the cultural and religious rights of communities that live in the NCR region.

A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to list the matter on Friday after advocate M.S. Suvidutt, who appeared for the organisation, sought an early hearing as the court would remain closed next week for the festival.

In its application, the organisation said neither Arjun Gopal, whose plea had led to Monday's order, nor the Union government had placed adequate material before the court for it to "consider the implications of its order on the fundamental rights" of communities. So the applicant was "constrained to place them before the Hon'ble Court".

The application pointed out that the festival had "religious and cultural significance" to Hindus of the Sanatan Dharma variant, Hindus of the Arya Samaj variant, Sikhs and Jains.

"The festival is celebrated in the north and south of India based on different traditions, while retaining certain commonalities such as lighting of lamps, chanting of prayers, exchange of gifts and bursting of firecrackers. While in the north, the festival marks the celebration of the return of Lord Ram, in the south it is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over Narakasura," the petitioner submitted.

"Regardless of whether these beliefs and traditions pass muster on the anvils of modern secular rationalism, these are nevertheless cherished beliefs and traditions which have been practised for centuries. Consequently, they form part of the religious and cultural rights of Indic communities under Article 25 (right to practise one's own religion)."

The petitioner said there were murals over 700 years old in temples of Tamil Nadu that depicted the celebration of Diwali with fireworks. Recorded history also shows that bursting of firecrackers was prevalent in Delhi even during the reign of Aurangzeb, it said, citing a fiat the Mughal emperor had issued in 1667 banning display of fireworks during the festival.

"This shows that at the very least, Delhi has a tradition of bursting firecrackers in celebration of Diwali which goes back to 350 years. In view of this long tradition, it is evident that regardless of whether the bursting of firecrackers is prescribed by Hindu scriptures, the festival has acquired a life of its own and the bursting of firecrackers has indeed become integral to the celebration of Diwali in the popular psyche," the application said.

The application also said there were many Hindus of the south who have lived in the NCR region for generations and who celebrate Deepawali.