Not fine!

In recent years the Supreme Court (SC) has caught several ministries napping. Recently, the SC pulled up the labour ministry and ministry of environment and forests (MEF) and slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on each of them. Some months ago, it had penalised the Delhi government for failing to contain the pollution level of Yamuna. The results were soon to see. On June 27, the DPCC announced that the pollution level had actually declined.

In the labour ministry case, the apex court's action followed the ministry's failure to furnish information on hazardous waste units in the country despite the court orders on December 10, 1999 and then again on February 7. The labour ministry's plea was that it could not comply with the directive because the MEF did not supply it with the necessary particulars. "It is quite evident that between these two ministries, except for exchange of correspondence, nothing else has happened and the orders of this court remained uncomplied with," the court observed.

The court said: "As is usually the case with the Union of India, the labour ministry has prayed for a time of two more months, seeking to put the blame on the environment ministry that it did not supply it with facts." Although the court accepted the plea, it put a condition that the two ministries each deposit Rs 10,000 as fine, which they could recover from concerned officers responsible for non-compliance.

However, when Down To Earth spoke to M Sengupta, director, hazardous waste management, MEF, he said that it is not a fine, but cost of the legal proceedings. But analysts feel that these departments are merely passing on the buck. Eminent lawyer Rajeev Dhawan says: "It is a contempt case. It is sad that the official concerned were not singled out, caught and punished for this.

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