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HomemaharashtraBombay HC reduces time for bursting firecrackers during Diwali to two hours

Bombay HC reduces time for bursting firecrackers during Diwali to two hours

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday modified its earlier order and said firecrackers can be burst only between 8 pm and 10 pm during Diwali in view of the air pollution situation.

A division bench of Chief Justice D K Upadhyaya and Justice G S Kulkarni had on November 6 permitted the bursting of firecrackers for three hours, between 7 pm and 10 pm, within the limits of all municipal authorities in Maharashtra.

During a hearing on Friday, the bench noted that Mumbai was witnessing a decline in the bursting of firecrackers.

“Let’s not become Delhi. Let’s remain Mumbaikars,” Chief Justice Upadhyaya said.

The bench said there are some critical areas of the city where the air quality index (AQI) remains poor.

“We are in an emergent and drastic situation. A lot of efforts have been taken, but maybe something more needs to be done,” the court said.

The bench said it was modifying its order of November 6. ‘The time to burst crackers shall be limited from 8 pm to 10 pm,’ it said.

Considering the prevalent situation, it does not deem it appropriate to modify another direction in its November 6 order which had banned the entry of vehicles transporting debris in the city but permitted vehicles carrying construction materials to ply if they were fully covered, the bench said.

“All other directions of the November 6 order shall continue to operate till November 19,” it said.

After November 19, concerned municipal corporations shall decide whether vehicles carrying debris should be allowed after considering the AQI, the court said.

The source of pollution also needs to be ascertained, it said, while emphasising the need for a study by experts to understand the causes.

“Is there any study as to what is the nature of this pollution…is it only dust or is there any chemical component in it? Because we are seeing many hospitals flooded with patients with respiratory illness,” the court said.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions including one taken up by it on its own (`suo motu’) concerning the rising air pollution in Mumbai.

The court will hear the matter further on December 11.

During the hearing, it noted that the problem of air pollution would recur.

“What needs to be done is a study by experts to go into causes and also measures to mitigate the pollution. We are not experts,” it said, adding that a constant monitoring mechanism was also needed.

Advocate General Birendra Saraf, appearing for the state government, told the court that the government, right from the level of the Chief Minister’s Office, has been making its sincerest efforts, and the AQI levels in the city have reached satisfactory levels.

The bench commented that this was because of the spells of rain that some parts of the city received earlier this week.

“Thanks to the rains,” CJ Upadhyaya said.

The court also noted that all that the government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been doing is fine and good enough.

“But you are not doing any favour on anyone. That is your duty,” it added.

Senior counsel Milind Sathe, appearing for the BMC, said the civic body has been implementing the guidelines issued following its March 2023 pollution mitigation action plan.

The civic body’s flying squads have so far visited 1,623 construction and other sites, of which 1,065 were issued notices for not complying with the pollution control norms and guidelines, he said.

The bench noted that the number of sites flouting the norms was high.

“The data speaks a lot. This shows that everything is not as rosy as the picture the BMC is trying to paint,” CJ Upadhyaya said, adding the figures provided by the BMC itself speak volumes about the alarming state of air quality.

The court also emphasised the need for a committee with experts and said the courts should be only for adjudication.

“All this is the job of the executive that has been thrust upon us,” the court said.

The bench noted that the Supreme Court had banned chemical firecrackers in the country.

“Is there any mechanism to check this at the manufacturing level itself? Or is there any mechanism to check this in the market where firecrackers are sold?” the court asked.

The HC had, on November 6, formed a committee comprising experts on environment and air pollution. On Friday, it added a retired bureaucrat as its third member. All municipal corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region will give it daily reports and it will submit the court a weekly report, the HC said.

(Published 10 November 2023, 13:59 IST)

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