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SC cracker anguish

New Delhi, Oct. 13: The Supreme Court today refused to lift its ban on sale of crackers in Delhi and the National Capital Region ahead of Diwali and expressed anguish that a "communal colour" was being given to a health measure.

The court clarified it had not stopped people from bursting crackers that had already been bought.

"We are not going to modify (the ban on sales) as that will go against the spirit of our order. We are pained that some people are giving a communal colour. Our concern primarily was the health of the masses. If someone knows me, I am myself spiritual. But this is a legal issue and we have clearly said this is an experiment for this year," said Justice A.K. Sikri, heading a two-judge bench.

Sections of public figures and commentators had tried to portray the sale ban as "anti-Hindu".

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for those who back the ban, referred to a statement by a Delhi BJP spokesperson criticising the order. However, Justice Sikri said: "Let us not make the issue political...it is an expression of anguish against our order. They are entitled to express their opinion."

The apex court bench, which included Justice Ashok Bhushan, said that the people must understand that the court had banned the sales only for this year. The ban was clamped to check rising pollution during the October-December period, with the smoke from crackers blamed for the winter smog.

Former attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for some cracker traders who filed a plea to lift the curbs, said they had accumulated huge stocks after a September court order allowing restricted sales.

Rohatgi said Diwali had been celebrated for hundreds of years across India and Delhi was no exception. "There are children who wait for Diwali celebrations," he said.

Justice Sikri asked: "Who said we have banned bursting of crackers? The existing stockpile of crackers is enough. Very frankly, the suspension of sales has not dampened Diwali celebrations. Crackers are already being burst. It is not in any way going to be a cracker-free Diwali.

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