The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a plea by traders to allow sale of fireworks in Delhi and the National Capital Region for at least a day before Diwali even as it voiced its anguish over attempts to give a "communal colour" to its ban order.
The court did so while refusing to relax its October 9 order banning the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and the NCR till October 31. Diwali falls on October 19.
The traders had moved the top court seeking relaxation of the ban, saying that a huge amount of money has been invested by them after their licences were revived and the latest order would cause massive loss to them. They sought permission of the apex court to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali.
"We are not going to relax the order as far as sale of firecrackers is concerned," said a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said.
It said Diwali would not be "cracker-free" in Delhi-NCR as people would burst the firecrackers which they had purchased before the ban order.
During the hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the parties, referred to certain statements made by some political leaders after the court's October 9 order.
"Do not make it political. We are pained to hear that some people tried to give it a communal colour. We are pained. It is sad," the bench said.
"Sale of firecrackers, which has already taken place before the ban order, people will burst it and that will be sufficient. Anyhow, it is not going to be a cracker-free Diwali," the court observed.
When Bhushan said some statements have been made that people would buy firecrackers from outside the Delhi-NCR and this would defeat the whole object of the order passed by the top court, the bench said, "this is an anguish expressed on our order".
The court said its ban order for this year during Diwali was an experiment to examine its effect on the pollution level in the region.
At the outset, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for firecracker traders, said he did not want to argue the matter but only give a suggestion that sale of crackers should be allowed at least a day or two before Diwali.
He also suggested that the court could restrict the timings for bursting firecrackers or its sale.
Rohatgi said that pursuant to the apex court's September 12 order temporarily lifting the stay and permitting sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR, traders had got licences and invested money in it as well.
"Diwali is a festival which is being celebrated since long. Delhi is not an exception. The problem of pollution is everywhere. There are number of children and persons who want to celebrate Diwali," he said while seeking relaxation on the ban order.
He said the sale of firecrackers should be permitted for two days or at least a day before Diwali.
The other advocates, seeking a relaxation on the ban, said the firecracker industry was highly regulated and thousands of people employed in it, besides Diwali was a cultural event irrespective of the community.
"This would be against the very spirit of the order," the court said.
Some of the licencees told the bench that licences granted to them would expire on October 21 while the ban order would be in force till October 31.
The bench said they can make a request to the authorities to extend the period of licence beyond November 1, when the September 12 order of the apex court would come into effect.
During the hearing, the bench also said that firecrackers should be allowed to be burst till 11 pm and not beyond that because it also caused noise pollution.
However, advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, appearing for petitioner Arjun Gopal on whose plea the ban order was passed, said the court should not give any clarification as its order was clear.
When a counsel raked up the issue that Diwali was celebrated by all communities, the bench said, "We are not entering into this debate. Our order was not influenced by all that."
The court also asked the Delhi Police to implement its order banning sale of firecrackers.
The apex court, while banning the sale of firecrackers till October 31, had said its September 12 order would be made effective only from November 1.
It had said its November 11, 2016 order suspending the licences "should be given one chance to test itself" to see if there is a positive effect of this, particularly during Diwali.
Image: The apex court dismissed the plea of firecracker traders who had sought relaxation in the October 9 ban order and sought permission to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali on October 19. Photograph: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters