SC may cut down cracker-burning time during Diwali after petition by 3 toddlers
The Supreme Court has said that it is planning to limit the cracker-burning time starting this Diwali, in response to a petition filed by three Delhi-based infants. So, if things go as planned, between 5 pm and 10 pm will be what cracker enthusiasts will be allowed to indulge themselves.
In the public interest litigation (PIL) reportedly filed through their lawyer-fathers, 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin and Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari, both 6 months, said that burning of firecrackers during the festive season would further pollute the already polluted air as well as harm their health. The widespread use of firecrackers in Delhi during the festive season exposes vulnerable infants to severe diseases such as asthma and worsens their lung conditions, the petition said. It added that in October and November, when Dussehra and Diwali are celebrated, the “massive risks of lung disease” increases because “smoke from firecrackers clogs the atmosphere.” The petition refers to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution dealing with prevention of encroachment upon personal liberty or deprivation of life of a person.
Hearing the PIL, the bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Amitava Roy directed solicitor general Ranjit Kumar and additional solicitor general Maninder Singh to contact the respective departments in the state governments and arrive with a response within a week.
One of the suggestions in the PIL related to limiting the cracker-bursting time to the period between 7 pm and 9 pm. The bench thought it was too small a window and suggested that it could be from 5 pm to 10 pm on Diwali day.
The bench accepted two suggestions from advocate AM Singhvi, the petitioners’ counsel, on spreading awareness about the ill-effects of crackers. It ordered the centre and state governments to give wide publicity to ill-effects of crackers in both print and electronic media.
The other suggestions included restricting grant of license to low-hazard fireworks, limiting license to manufacture fireworks to a brief period between Dussehra and Diwali, and asking resident welfare associations to hold community fireworks for a brief period of 30 minutes on a single day.
Kaliswari Fireworks Pvt. Ltd – one of the largest fireworks manufacturers based in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu – has moved the apex court to become a party to the petition, saying a verdict on the petition would affect them commercially.
FSSAI takes junk food off school menu
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued draft guidelines on availability of wholesome and nutritious food in schools with a view to controlling junk-food consumption among children. These guidelines propose to restrict sale or availability of food that are high in fat, salt or sugar content, within 50 metres of schools’ premises. This includes an array of food and beverages including chips, ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers, sugar-sweetened carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, potato fries (commonly called French fries), and confectionery items.
The draft guidelines have also suggested creation of a canteen policy and school health education programmes to make students and parents aware of the ill-effects of unhealthy food habits.
“The identified foods are based on an evaluation done on available similar foods in India. They are considered unhealthy due to imbalance in nutrients – that is, high in fat, sugar and salt, and/or low in proteins, fibres and nuts,” the draft explains.
The food regulator’s move was triggered by the Delhi High Court’s directive in July-end, giving three months to the authorities to monitor availability of junk food in schools. Various health groups have been advocating against availability and sale of unhealthy food in schools.