India’s top court bans firecracker sales before Diwali

This file photo shows Indian children lighting fireworks for the Diwali festival in New Delhi on October 27, 2011. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 09 October 2017

India’s top court bans firecracker sales before Diwali

NEW DELHI: India’s top court ordered a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi on Monday, ahead of the Diwali festival that leaves the city shrouded in toxic smog.
The decision comes a little over a week before Diwali — the Hindu festival of lights — when Delhi fills with acrid smoke from celebratory firecrackers set off day and night.
The onset of winter usually worsens the situation as cooler temperatures trap the pollutants, exacerbated by crop burning in neighboring states.
Acting on a petition, the Supreme Court directed that all licenses to sell firecrackers in New Delhi and neighboring cities be suspended until October 31.
“The court has made it clear that all licenses stand banned forthwith,” Haripriya Padmanabhan, one of the petitioners, told NDTV news network after the order.
India’s notoriously poor air quality causes over 1 million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier this year.
A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.
At midday Monday, the US embassy showed the concentration of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — at an “unhealthy” level.
The top court had imposed a similar ban last November when Delhi’s air quality reached “hazardous” levels after Diwali, forcing schools to shut and a temporary ban on construction.
But the November order was briefly lifted last month, allowing residents to buy firecrackers ahead of Diwali, which falls on October 19 this year.
“I guess those people will end up bursting them, so it’s not a 100 percent victory,” Padmanabhan said.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.