The Supreme Court has allowed the sale and use of green crackers - considered to be less polluting - for two hours in Telangana, where the state government had imposed a complete ban following an order from the state High Court ahead of Diwali.
The judgement was given by a two-judge bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sajiv Khanna in an urgent hearing, conducted through video conferencing, on a plea filed by the Telangana Fire Workers Dealers Association stating losses.
Allowing the 2-hour relaxation, the Supreme Court clarified that the Telangana state government would have to heed restrictions imposed by the National Green Tribunal.
The court also issued a notice to the original petitioner before the High Court on whose plea the ban was imposed, and said that it cannot stay the High Court's order without hearing the other side.
"In the meanwhile, the impugned judgment stands modified and be in line with NGT's order of November 9 which applies even to the State of Telangana. The state must comply with the directions in letter and spirit. We are conscious of the fact that the respondents are not served, but in view of the peculiar situation and urgency involved, the High Court orders stands modified," the bench said.
Last week, the National Green Tribunal had imposed a complete ban on firecrackers in Delhi, neighbouring areas and all cities across the country where the average air quality is "poor" or worse. The green court had allowed sale and use of less polluting "green crackers" for two hours in areas where air pollution was "moderate" or below.
The ban is applicable from midnight November 9 to midnight November 30, and on festivals like Diwali, Chatt, Guru Purab, Christmas and the New Year's Eve.
Recently, Delhi's neighbour Haryana had also tweaked its firecracker ban to allow sale and use for two hours everywhere in the state, barring Gurgaon - a part of the highly polluted national capital region. The state also allowed relaxations after a presentation by traders' groups.
Similar relaxation was also adopted in other BJP-ruled states of Karnataka and Assam, which have urged people to exercise restraint.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said there would be no restrictions on bursting of firecrackers on Diwali as "Hindus have the right to celebrate".
Though the ban on firecrackers has been imposed in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 - which to affect lung function - amid deteriorating air quality, the issue has taken on a political colour in Telangana.
State BJP president and parliamentarian Bandi Sanjay Kumar had accused the TRS government of failing to protect the sentiments of its Hindu population. "It has become fashionable to make the festivals of Hindus controversial every time," Mr Kumar said. He also questioned the effect of the ban on government-approved shopkeepers and manufacturers.
Last year, amid severe air pollution in Delhi, the Supreme Court had allowed sale and use of green fire crackers for two hours on Diwali.
India has more than 87 lakh cases of coronavirus, with northern states seeing a rise in infection rate with onset of winters.