New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday modified its order fixing 8-10pm for bursting firecrackers on Diwali and said the time will be changed in places like Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, but cannot exceed two hours a day.
A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan also observed that the direction for permitting the use of green crackers was meant for the Delhi-NCR region and was not pan-India.
The apex court was hearing several applications filed by the Tamil Nadu government and firecracker manufacturers seeking modification and clarification of its October 23 order.
On Monday, the Tamil Nadu government urged the apex court to allow firecrackers to be burst on Diwali morning in accordance with religious practices in the state, besides the already permitted 8 pm to 10 pm period.
The counsel appearing for firecracker manufacturers told the court that it was not possible to come up with green crackers this Diwali since there was no set composition for manufacturing them.
The Tamil Nadu government's plea, filed through advocate B Vinod Khanna, said the state should be given permission to burst firecrackers between 4:30 am to 6:30 am as well.
According to the petition, each state or sect has a separate set of beliefs and traditions as far as Diwali celebrations are concerned and the apex court's restriction would amount to "rejecting the people with their due religious rights and would subject the people of the state into much hardship".
"Diwali is a practice religiously and scrupulously followed by Hindus from time immemorial and it had become a core and essential religious practice which is also protected under Article 25 of the Constitution as their fundamental right," it said.
Diwali is celebrated in the state early in the morning to commemorate the death of Narakashura, it pointed out.
The plea also contended that the modification sought by it was in the interest of environment.
"It would be in the interest of environment not to subject the entire population to burst firecrackers within a stipulated short time as it would lead to larger volume of emissions within a short span. Permitting people to burst firecrackers at two different times with due intervals would facilitate dissemination of the smoke," it said.
Making fire-fighting and rescue facilities available in case of any mishap would also be convenient if crackers are burst at different points of time, it added.
On October 23, the top court said people in the country can only burst firecrackers from 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali and other festivals. It also allowed the manufacture and sale of just "green crackers" which have low emission of light, sound and harmful chemicals.
The apex court carved out an exception for Christmas and the New Year's Eve, saying crackers on these days could be burst between 11.55 pm and 12.30 am since the celebrations start at midnight.
It also banned the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers, saying they cause "huge air, noise and solid waste problems".
The apex court said the noise and smoke emission limits of the crackers will have to be approved by the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO), under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.