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National Green Tribunal angry as MoEF remains unrepresented

Ministry counsel resign owing to fee cut indicating growing differences between the tribunal and the bureaucrats. Chetan Chauhan reports.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2013 17:20 IST
Chetan Chauhan

A tiff is brewing between the environment ministry and the National Green Tribunal with the ministry remaining unrepresented in the tribunal since November 4 owing to resignation of its law officers.

The ministry officials say the law officers have resigned owing to low re-imbursements being offered by the Law ministry but others suspect that it was because of brewing trouble between the ministry and the tribunal.

A lawyer said the ministry’s counsels were upset with the way the ministry was dealing with the cases listed with the tribunal. “The briefing was being done at the last moment resulting in the ministry’s view not being represented adequately. Later we were being blamed for an adverse order,” a law officer said.

The ministry has taken objection to the tribunal pulling it up on several occasions for faulty environment clearances and taking up issues on suo-motto basis. The ministry had expressed its unhappiness over the tribunal functioning in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, which was later withdrawn.

On Monday, a bench headed by tribunal chairperson Swantanter Kumar expressed his displeasure over absence of ministry’s lawyer in a case related to steel major Posco resulting in delay in proceedings. “We deprecate this attitude. You seem to be offended with tribunals, you better be careful about tribunals,” the bench said, while summoning the joint secretary of the ministry.

Ruling out a tiff with the tribunal, an environment ministry official instead blamed the law ministry for its absence from the tribunal. The law officers have refused to appear for the ministry as their fees has been reduced on the ground of fund crunch, an official said.

The official also indicated at lack of coordination between the two ministries causing the ministry remaining unrepresented at various courts. The southern bench of the tribunal recently threatened to initiate contempt proceedings against the ministry for failing to reply to its notice.