In an un-turn from its 2018 October 23 order banning manufacture, sale and use of loud and toxic firecrackers while allowing only green and improved crackers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said they cannot killed the jobs of poor people working in the firecracker industry, driving them to starvation
“We cannot give money or jobs or support people who will lose their jobs if we shut down firecrackers manufacturing units… We do not want to generate unemployment,” Justice Bobde Justice S.A. Bobde said on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court cannot kill the jobs of thousands of poor people working in the firecracker industry, driving them to starvation. If the court cannot generate jobs, its orders should not extinguish their livelihood, Justice Bobde observed.
The court asked how it can possibly feel empowered to put the shutters down on an occupation which is both legal and licensed.
This is a veritable u-turn from the apex court’s October 23 ban on the manufacture, sale and use of loud and toxic firecrackers while allowing only green and improved crackers.
However, there has been no consensus so far on what composes green crackers despite all these months after the October order of the apex court. The factories have remained shut, especially in Sivakasi district in Tamil Nadu, which is the hub for cracker manufacturing.
The October ban was based on petitions filed by a six-month-old and a 14-month-old, through their fathers in 2015. They had said the air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, has made Delhi a gas chamber. They pleaded for their right to life.
“People are gunning for firecrackers, but the bigger pollutant is vehicles… Had the normal pollution level been low, then we could have managed better,” Justice Bobde observed.
This is the first time the case came up before the Bench led by Justice Bobde. The case was previously heard by another Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri, who retired recently. Justice Bobde is in line to be the next Chief Justice of India.
To a lawyer who said other countries also use crackers with stringent safeguards, Justice Bobde said firecrackers are not loved there as much as we do in India.
Throughout the hearing, Justice Bobde categorically repeated that “we do not wish to generate unemployment”.
The judge’s observations is quite in line with what the cracker manufacturers, strongly backed by the Tamil Nadu government, has argued.
They had contended that there was no definite study to show that bursting of crackers made the air quality worse during festivals like Diwali. The fundamental right to occupation of the cracker industry cannot be put in peril on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations that crackers pollute. The court should wait for a “complete study”.
The industry has argued that the revenue generated from the manufacturing and sale of fireworks is to the tune of ₹6,000 crore per annum. Further, the industry employs five lakh families.
“Such a revenue to the State as well as employment to large number of workers on which five lakh families sustain cannot be put in jeopardy by imposing a total ban. It was emphasised that there is a necessity to adopt a balanced approach,” the cracker manufacturers had argued.
The court has even before in this case said its endeavour is to strive for balance between the right to public health and the right to occupation of the industry.