infants petition pollution
A school boy holds a placard during an anti-firecrackers campaign to save the environment ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali. [Representational Image]Reuters

Three infants from New Delhi, below the age of 15 months, have approached the Supreme Court pleading to stop the sale of firecrackers this Dussehra and Diwali as they do not wish to grow up in a polluted environment.

Fathers of Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari, both six-month-old, and 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin filed a petition on their behalf seeking the apex court's intervention to prevent further air pollution in the national capital.

Contending that they be allowed to exercise the fundamental right to clean air under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the petition says "our lungs have not yet fully developed and we cannot take further pollution through bursting of crackers", according to The Times of India report.

A Supreme Court rule allows infants to file petitions for the protection of their fundamental rights through their parents and guardians who term themselves as 'next friends'.

Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Amit Bhandari and Saurabh Bhasin--fathers of the three children--are practising lawyers at the Supreme Court. They filed the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution against the central government, Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the Delhi Police Licensing Unit.

"It is in the interests of the children who are claiming their fundamental right under Article 21 for a clean and healthy environment that the present petition is filed. The right to breathe clean air is essential for a conducive environment for their growth and development," according to the Bar and Bench report.

To support their petition, the petitioners have highlighted that no religion in India "advocates or calls for the use of firecrackers in celebrating festivals".

"....there is nothing in the religious texts of any major religion practised in India that advocates or calls for the use of firecrackers in celebrating festivals and the same cannot be claimed to be a right under Article 25 of the Constitution," the petition said.

"...the custom of celebrating Diwali and other Indian festivals, which have been using fireworks in recent years have to be viewed historically in the nature of the festival's pith, substance and entirety. Merely because the late 20th century practice of celebrating national festivals has up till now involved the use of firecrackers does not by itself make them a custom or ritual," it added.

Based on the above-mentioned remarks, the petitioners sought "ban on the use in any form of firecrackers, sparklers and minor explosives in any form, for use during festivals or otherwise".

Beside firecrackers, the petitioners raised grave concerns on increasing air pollution due to seasonal crop burning in States around Delhi and vehicular pollution.

"It is imperative that immediate steps are taken to ensure that crop burning in the surrounding areas of the Delhi/NCR are immediately stopped as they unleash several million tonnes of fumes and dangerous suspended particles into the air which are transported over Delhi by the seasonal winds," the petition said.

The petitioner sought "stringent action against those who dump dust, malba and other pollutants without following due regulations and permissions, the failure of which will entail severe penalties". 

Mentioning about the pollution due to vehicles, the petitioner said, "It is necessary that at the very least, Bharat-V fuel be implemented with immediate effect and that rigorous penalties imposed and implemented on erring parties".

The petition is likely to be listed for admission next week, Bar and Bench reported.

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