Karnataka HC cites Upanishads to ban sale of firecrackers in congested Bengaluru areas

In a first, the High Court judgment pronounced by Justice Krishna Dixit included pictures of youngsters who had sustained injuries due to firecrackers.
People burning firecrackers.
People burning firecrackers.
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The Karnataka High Court has upheld an order passed by the City Police Commissioner banning the sale of firecrackers in congested areas of Bengaluru. A Karnataka High Court bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit held that it needs no research to know that the production, transportation and bursting of crackers — including those with reduced emission such as green crackers — are detrimental to mother nature, in varying degrees and kind.

Justice Krishna S Dixit dismissed the petitions filed by Madhi Trading Company and others, who operate companies that deal with crackers and fireworks items near Sultanpet and on Avenue Road in Bengaluru. The petitioners had appealed against the 2012 order by Bengaluru police, banning the sale of firecrackers in congested areas in Bengaluru.

In a first, the judgment included pictures of those who had sustained injuries from firecrackers. "This would make the Makers of the Constitution to shiver in their grave. There cannot be a greater violation of the right to life, limb and liberty," the High Court said in the order, depicting pictures of youngsters who had sustained eye injuries in firecracker mishaps.

"Indisputably, the ill-effects of firecrackers cause irreversible damage to the environment. Apart from infants, expectant mothers and patients (more particularly those having heart ailments and high blood pressure) even animals and birds too feel the violence due to bursting of crackers." the HC observed.

Quoting a verse from the Upanishads, the High Court said "What right (do) humans have to perpetrate acts of violence, when our scriptures (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14) edict: ‘sarve bhavantu sukhinaha, sarve santu niraamayaha…’ It nearly translates to: let all people be happy and all creatures be free from affliction." The High Court also added that the “alarming rate of climate change is caused due to the unsustainable and environmentally harmful patterns of life,” and that “sustainability in this regard must now more than ever before factor into decision making.”

The court ruled that the sale of firecrackers falls under the same category of products like poison, alcohol, cigarettes, and explosives and hence it is not protected by the fundamental right outlined in Article 19 of the Constitution.

The court added that the firecracker company can move the location of its shop out of the congested area, holding that any mishap in these areas will impact a large number of people, as it will be difficult for fire engines to enter small lanes that are congested and overpopulated.

"If the petitioners have to shift their 'apple carts' to safer areas, quitting the lanes in question, other similarly circumstanced businessmen cannot be permitted to cling on to the same area. What applies to goose applies to gander, as rightly contended by the counsel for the State," the High Court said in the order.

The bench also relied on the observations by the National Green Tribunal dated December 11, 2020, adding, "Even if there are other sources of pollution and meteorological conditions contributing to the air pollution, it does not justify ignoring acknowledged  pollution by bursting of firecrackers adding to the air and noise pollution, beyond statutory norms."

Citing that right to business is not absolute, Justice Dixit said that there is no justification for violating air and noise quality norms. The HC said, "Nobody has a right to carry on business at the cost of the health of others.”

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