Youngest petitioners ever: Infants move Supreme Court seeking ban on firecrackers


In probably the first case of its kind, the Supreme Court has been moved on behalf of three infants aged between 6 and 14 months—in a plea for a ban on the use of firecrackers in the upcoming festival months. The public interest litigation, filed by their legal guardians, cites the grave impact of the resulting pollution on their health and immune systems.

It also seeks to regulate seasonal crop burnings, emissions from vehicles (requesting the Bharat Stage Emission standards to be brought in line with the Euro VI standards) and other industrial pollution.

The PIL on behalf of infants Arjun, Aarav and Zoya requested the apex court to protect their right to a clean and pollution-free environment.

The petition has sought action by the union government, the Central Pollution Control Board, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Delhi Police Licensing unit.

The petition says children are more affected by pollution because their immune systems are not fully developed.

“It is a very powerful message especially when we know that we have already compromised the health of the future generation. The data already available from CPCB shows that every third child in Delhi has impaired lungs,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environmental non-governmental organization.

Saying that the burning of firecrackers is not central to the celebration of festivals like Dussehra and Diwali, the petition says that it cannot be claimed as a right under the Indian constitution, which guarantees the right to practise and profess a religion.

The petition has also sought a stay on the grant of firework licenses by the Delhi Police Licensing unit.

The petition also refers to reports which show that children are more prone to lung disease, asthma, bronchitis, retarded nervous system development and cognitive impairment.

Concerns have risen about air pollution in Indian cities in the past few months. A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said that of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India, with Delhi at the top.

Another study, which was released in February 2015, said the life of 660 million Indians, about half of the country’s total population, is being cut short by around three years due to severely polluted air.

Six-month-old Arjun’s father, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who’s also a lawyer, said the PIL was filed after a lot of reading showed him that the most vulnerable group to air pollution were children and babies.

“There has been a talk going on for a while. Yet, we saw firecrackers being used, no reduction in trucks passing through the city, no shift to cleaner fuels. Many groups have sought action. In fact, I am part of one such group — Care for Air — which is in the process of being registered.”

While the interim request for a stay on firecracker licences applies only to Delhi, the larger ban has been sought throughout the country.



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