NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said the West Bengal government and the state pollution control board will have to be heard if any order is to be passed on pleas against the Calcutta High Court order banning firecrackers during Kali Puja, Diwali and some other festivals this year to check air pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high court on October 29 had banned sale, use and purchase of all types of firecrackers in the state.
A special bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi told the counsel appearing for the petitioners to intimate advocates representing the state and the West Bengal pollution control board that the matter will be taken up for hearing at 3 pm today.
The counsel appearing for the petitioners told the bench, which assembled during the Diwali vacation to hear the matter, that they have served through e-mail the advance copies of the plea to the lawyers appearing for the respondents, including the state government and the pollution control board.
"State and pollution control board will have to be heard if any order is to be passed," the bench said during the hearing conducted through videoconferencing.
"It appears that advance copy has already been served on the standing counsel for the state of West Bengal as well as the pollution control board. However, no appearance is made on their behalf. We permit the counsel for the petitioners to intimate the standing counsel for the state of West Bengal as well as the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, if any, that the matter will be taken up at 3 pm through video-conference and to make themselves available with appropriate instructions, the bench said.
At the outset, the bench asked the counsel representing the petitioners whether they have served the advance copy of the pleas to the respondents.
"Yes. We have served everyone through e-mail," the counsel said.
A lawyer, representing the petitioners on whose plea the high court had passed the October 29 order, said they are opposing the plea challenging the high court order.
"Who is appearing for the pollution control board and the state? We don't want to multiply the hearing unnecessarily," the bench said.
One of the pleas filed in the apex court has claimed that the October 29 order passed by the high court was "patently erroneous" in holding a complete ban on firecrackers within West Bengal when the apex court has allowed the use of green firecrackers in permissible limit across all states.
"The high court failed to appreciate that green crackers with reduced emission by a minimum of 30 per cent have been introduced in the local market. These are environment friendly," said one of the pleas filed by the chairman of a West Bengal-based firecracker association and another such group.
One of the petitioners has said that they represent the interest of about seven lakh families who are involved in the process of manufacture and sale of fireworks and are involved in the fireworks industry in one manner or another.
"The high court failed to appreciate that the firecrackers manufacturers under the supervision and guidance of competent authorities of both the central and state governments are now engaged in manufacturing only green crackers which conform to permissible smoke and noise levels in terms of the directions of the apex court and the National Green Tribunal," the plea said.
It has sought ex-parte interim stay on the operation of the high court order.
The plea said said if a blanket ban is imposed in this season on the sale and use of firecrackers in the state of West Bengal, sellers and manufacturers will have to suffer irreparable losses which may "lead to a complete shutdown of the firecracker industry altogether".
In its order, the high court had said that the expression "firecrackers" will cover all types of sparklers as well as other similar materials, whether or not their bursting or burning involves any sound or light generation.
"The state should ensure that there is no use or display or bursting of firecrackers of any type at all during Kali Puja, Diwali celebrations as well as Chhath Puja, Jagadhatri Puja, Guru Nanak's birthday and Christmas and New Year's eve celebrations this year," the high court had said.
It had said that only wax or oil-based diyas may be used for the occasions.
The high court has directed police to maintain a strict vigil to ensure that there is no further sale or purchase of firecrackers and take appropriate measures against those found violating the order.
The petition in the high court had claimed that the bursting of firecrackers of all classes will severely endanger the right to life of citizens of the state, particularly in view of the worsening pandemic situation, as it would increase air pollution.
It sought a re-imposition of the ban that the court had ordered before Diwali and Chhath in 2020.
On October 29, the apex court had said celebration cannot be at the cost of others' health and clarified that while there is no total ban on the use of firecrackers, fireworks which contain Barium salts are prohibited.
Warning that top officials at various levels "shall be held personally liable" for any lapses, the apex court had said it is unfortunate that despite various directions issued by it there is a blatant violation going on.