The environment ministry officials were upbraided by the National Green Tribunal for not appearing before it in several cases delaying proceedings indefinitely.

The tribunal warned that it would be forced to take ‘coercive action’ against officials if the environment ministry (MOEF) continued to disregard proceedings in the court and remain absent.

The Tribunal on Wednesday said that the lack of representation from the ministry in several cases was leading to repeated adjournments and consequently making the court ‘practically non-functional’.

In its written orders, the NGT said, “We must notice that default of appearance on behalf of MoEF is becoming a routine and is causing great inconvenience to  the Bench as well as delay in dealing with the cases. Let the Secretary, MoEF be informed by way of last opportunity of this persisting issue.”

It added, “If no remedial steps are taken, we would be compelled to pass coercive orders.”

The court said, “They (environment ministry) can't make this tribunal practically non-functional. We can't take this. We will call for joint secretary, then (the) secretary and still if nothing is done, then we will impose costs that you can't even imagine," the bench warned.”

This is not the first confrontation between the government and the tribunal with a long-running feud over the establishment of the court and its facilities having played out before the Supreme Court since the time the NGT was set up. The arguments between them have also ensued over the mandate of the tribunal and whether the NGT can step-in pro-actively on environmental issues to take cognisance of issues even if no petitioner has approached the court.