Public officials, not people, must pay for bureaucratic incompetence

If public officials are not held personally responsible for their actions, they will continue to undermine our judicial institutions.

On October 16, the National Green Tribunal imposed a fine of ₹50 crore on the Delhi government “for not taking action against illegal, polluting steel-pickling units in the national capital’s residential areas.”

The Tribunal also directed the Chief Secretary to the Delhi government to establish a three-member panel to identify the persons responsible so appropriate action may be taken against them. The panel is given four months to submit its report. We all know the results of such inquiries; the files are likely to go missing or some low-level official will be transferred or sent on leave for a few months. We have seen it happen time and again.

While the people of Delhi wait for the report to find someone to blame, they are being punished for the incompetence of their elected leaders and bureaucrats. Governments do not generate money, they collect them from the taxpayers. The fine, imposed on the Delhi government, will be paid by the people of Delhi.

First Delhiites are doomed to suffer from living in the most polluted city in the world and when the government fails to tackle it even after multiple orders from courts, they have to pay taxes for incompetence of public officials. This is outrageous. We are not sure what logic the Tribunal used to impose a fine on the people, but it is plain wrong.

Violating orders of the Tribunal not only amounts to contempt of court, it also undermines the faith that people have in the judicial institutions of the country. Instead of imposing the fine on Delhi’s taxpayers, the public officials who ignored the orders of the Tribunal should be personally held liable and be prosecuted.

If that is not done, our bureaucrats will continue to undermine our judicial institutions and further reduce the faith of the people in them.

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