A Bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee of Calcutta High Court banned the Bursting Of Firecrackers and sale of firecrackers on Kali Puja in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The State should ensure that there is no use or display or bursting of firecrackers at all during the Kali Puja and Diwali celebrations.”
The Court ordered,
“For this purpose, only wax or oil-based diyas would have to suffice, for the greater good of the citizens and in the larger public interest. This direction as to firecrackers will be effective all over the State and will cover not only the Kali Puja and Diwali celebrations, but also the Chhat Puja, Jagadhatri Puja and Guru Nanak’s birthday celebrations thereafter.”
Two pleas were filed in the public interest, pertaining to the upcoming celebrations. In the second of the matters, prayers were made pertaining to Kali Puja right upto Christmas.
Also, an application by an unregistered body which could be loosely called the local firecrackers’ association was also filed. It is a body of persons engaged in the manufacture of or trading in firecrackers.
The Court noted that the State has already issued verbal advisories pertaining to Bursting Of Firecrackers during the Kali Puja and Diwali celebrations.
The Court further noted that an appeal has been made on behalf of the State for all kinds of firecrackers not to be used this year in view of the pandemic and the virus that attacks the respiratory system.
The Court also remarked,
“It is evident that there has been an endeavour on the part of the State to protect the air quality so that the respiratory problems that arise as a result of the infection are not aggravated because of the noxious fumes brought about by the use of firecrackers.”
The Court also appreciated the State Government and the State police for the “admirable conduct of the Durga Puja, despite the late directions issued by the Court“.
Submissions by State in matter of sale and Bursting Of Firecrackers
The State submitted before the Court that the matter pertaining to Bursting Of Firecrackers is pending before the National Green Tribunal and orders have been reserved
The State suggested in matter of sale and Bursting Of Firecrackers that,
“In the light of such specialised body having taken up the matter pertaining to firecrackers all over the country, such aspect may be left to the Tribunal and not gone into in the present proceedings“.
The State submitted in matter of Bursting Of Firecrackers that the directions to be issued now may be confined to Kali Puja and the matters pertaining to Kali Puja pandals, since there is sufficient time available before Jagadhatri Puja and even Chhat Puja.
In this context, the Court said that the matters pertaining to Chhat Puja will be taken up for consideration on November 10, 2020.
Court’s Observations and Directions
Court’s directions related to Kali Puja, Jagadhatri Puja and Kartick Puja
The Court was of the opinion that since public Kali pujas are many more than Durga pujas, and some of the pandals are much smaller, the guidelines issued for Durga Puja pandals need to be somewhat modified.
The Court issued the following guidelines
· All pandals will continue to be No-Entry Zones, including an area of five-metre beyond the pandals on all the open sides. Only dhakis will be 5 permitted to occupy the space beyond the pandals and within the five-metre zone thereafter. Except for dhakis, the five-metre zone has to be kept completely free at all times.
· For the smaller pandals, where the covered area excluding the dais is up to 150 square metres, only 10 persons may be in such covered area at any given point of time. For pandals with a covered area between 150 square metres and 300 square metres excluding the dais, the number of persons at any point of time maybe 15. For bigger pandals, in excess of 300 square metres in an area excluding the dais, a maximum of 45 persons can be within the pandals at any given point of time.
· Sanitisers must be available at the puja pandals and wearing of masks will be mandatory within and around the pandal area. The distancing norm has to be maintained at all times both within the pandals and in an around the pandals.
· Immersions should be low-key affairs and processions for such purpose will not be permitted. The use of bands and lights at the time of immersion will also remain prohibited. It will be open to the local police to provide for staggered timings so that the immersion ghats are not overcrowded.
Court’s directions related to Ban on Firecrackers and Bursting Of Firecrackers
The Court directed that the police should maintain a strict vigil to ensure that there is no sale or purchase of firecrackers of any form in the State between now and the end of the month.
Also, the police has been asked to make every effort to confiscate Bursting Of Firecrackers and any kind of like material which have the potential to pollute the air. Immediate appropriate measures against Bursting Of Firecrackers must be taken by the police against those seeking to act in contravention of these directions.
The State has been asked to ensure that no firecrackers of any kind are brought into the State, except for immediate transit to another State. The compendious word “firecrackers” is used in this order to include all types of sparklers and the like, whether or not the use or burning thereof involves any sound or light being generated.
As far as the application by the firecrackers’ association was concerned, the Court said,
“It will be for the State to consider whether appropriate compensation or other measures can be taken“.
The Court further said,
“For the greater good, a small number of persons involved in the firecracker business may have to suffer losses. The overwhelming public interest cannot be compromised.”
Read the order here: