In a first of its kind petition in judicial history, the infants - two six-month-olds Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari and 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin - moved the SC through their advocate fathers to seek several measures to mitigate pollution and exercise their right to clean air guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court Rules permit minors to file petitions for the protection of their fundamental rights through their parents and guardians who term themselves as 'next friends'. The immediate provocation for the filing of the writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution was the crackers that would go up in a burst of sound, flame and smoke during the coming festive season.
The petitioners sought the SC's immediate intervention "against inevitable and upcoming widespread use of firecrackers and fireworks and other products of the same classification, especially during Dussehra and Diwali, but thereafter in all other events and festivities as well". They also wanted measures to check pollution hazards like burning crop residues, polluting vehicles and open waste disposal. They said, "Over the last two years, Delhi has retained the unique distinction of being the most polluted city in the world. The levels of particulate matter are highest, and across the country, over 7 lakh deaths occur annually due to air-pollution related diseases.
"Studies show that Indian citizens have 30% lower lung capacity than Europeans, and that children are the worst affected, as their lungs have not yet fully developed and their systems are vulnerable. In Delhi, a majority of the pollution is caused by over 500 million tonnes of crop residue burnt annually in neighbouring areas, by polluting trucks that pass through the city during the night, road dust and pollution from industries.
"To add to this, the smoke from bursting of crackers in the months of October and November during the festivals of Dussehra and Diwali virtually clogs the atmosphere, substantially increases the pollution level and magnifies the risk of contracting lung diseases." They said every year, the adverse impact of pollution gets debated and forgotten as the lethargic government machinery does little to protect citizens, especially infants and children, from the long-term toxic effects of deadly pollution enveloping the capital city. The infants also sought following directions from the court to the government on a ban on burning post-harvest crop residue, stringent action against those who dump dust, malba (concrete waste) and other pollutants and introducing Bharat-V emission norms for vehicles.