Noting that public safety was foremost, a division bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad said the State should open the shops for cracker sale only after ensuring that all regulations and safety measures were in place.
The direction was based on a petition moved by M Muniyan of Choolaimedu, who alleged that the regulations as spelt out the Explosive Rules, 2008, and the guidelines that the Madras High Court had issued in 2013 have been thrown to the wind by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) that is setting up the shops.
Citing the public tender document and the proposed layout backed with photographs of the stalls being set up, his counsel M Vijay Anand said as per the High Court guidelines, each shed should be independent and made of non-flammable materials. Also, the sheds ought to be a distance of at least three metres from each other, fifty metres from any protected work, and should not face each other.
But none of these have been adhered to, the petitioner alleged, adding that shops have instead been allocated without the specified space, and adequate exits and fire safety measures. He submitted that the shops were being let out in a hurried manner without following any safety norms. Because of this, the authorities ought to be restrained from proceeding further with allocating the shops, as they pose a grave safety hazard to the public.
However, TTDC submitted in its counter that like the cracker fair held in 2016 and 2017 in the War Memorial area following all safety norms stipulated by the Fire and Rescue Services Department, this year also the process of installing stalls has been done by floating an open tender.
Also, maintaining that it has not violated any of the direction of the High court and constant inspection was on to ensure that no violation takes place, the corporation said the allocation of shops as per the proposed layout enclosed in the tender document was subject to change.
Need to create awareness among public, say police
Within days of the Supreme Court banning bursting of firecrackers except two hours on Deepavali day, jubilant AIADMK workers were seen bursting crackers after the Madras High Court delivered the judgement on the case related to disqualification of 18 MLAs in their favour on Thursday. When this newspaper drew the attention of a senior police officer to the incident where cadres burst crackers in front of the ruling party office on Avvai Shanmugham Salai, he said that police may have to create awareness about the judgement among people. “We have not gone through the order completely. Once we study the order, we will know guidelines correctly. We also need to create awareness among the public on the subject,” noted Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, Additional Commissioner (South). Chennai being a place where cracker bursting has become a regular affair from funeral procession to cricket matches and temple festivals, the police may have to work to bring awareness to people on SC guidelines on the matter, he added.