Tamil Nadu’s festival of lights saw the police land on people’s doorsteps to crackdown on those who violated the Supreme Court order on timings for lighting fireworks. As many as 2,100 cases were registered and at least 650 people were arrested by the police across Tamil Nadu on Tuesday for bursting crackers outside of the time limit set by the state government -- 6am to 7am and 7pm to 8pm for Deepavali.
TNM called the district police offices in all the 32 districts in the state to get the number of cases booked and the number of persons arrested on those cases. Though the number of cases were much less as at 6 pm on Tuesday, the final number shot up once the evening slot for bursting fireworks ended.
While Chennai saw the highest number of cases at 344, Theni district recorded the lowest number of cases being at three. Coimbatore district saw 184 cases being registered for violating the order, the second highest in the state followed by Villupuram at 160 cases and Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli districts at 135 cases each. 127 cases were booked in Madurai district while Salem and Tiruvallur saw 107 and 105 cases respectively for violating the order of the apex court.
The police have booked those who violated the SC order under Sections 291(Continuance of nuisance after injunction to discontinue), and 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 268 (public nuisance) of the Indian Penal Code. Though all the districts have registered cases against persons for not complying with the SC order, only a chunk of those against whom cases have been registered were arrested. “These are bailable offences and hence it didn’t make sense to arrest them because anyway they will get bail immediately. That is why the difference in number of cases booked and the arrests made,” explained a police officer.
The Tamil Nadu government had, on November 2, announced that fireworks can be burst between 6 and 7 am and between 7 and 8 pm for Deepavali. This announcement came after the Supreme Court passed an order on October 23 restricting the bursting of fireworks to a two-hour window between 8 pm and 10 pm for Deepavali across the country. However, the Tamil Nadu government moved the top court urging it to modify its order keeping in mind the customs and traditions of the people of Tamil Nadu, who burst crackers in the morning of Deepavali. On October 30, the apex court modified its earlier order directing state governments to fix a time slot for bursting of crackers not exceeding the two-hour time window specified in the earlier order.
Speaking to TNM earlier, advocate Sudha Ramalingam said that since there is a clear ruling from the apex court, the cases registered by the police are bound to stand in the court of law. “There is an order and the police are to implement the order. Hence the cases booked for violating the law will stand in court, if the police is able to prove that the offence was committed,” she said.
Justice K Chandru, a retired judge of the Madras High Court said that the cases against violators will stand if the offences are proven by the police. "But chances are high that the judge may ultimately warn the accused and close the case when these cases reach the court," he added.