High Court declines to stay proceedings in tree felling

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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday refused to stay the proceedings pending before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Sulthan Bathery, in the cases registered in connection with the felling of centuries-old rosewood trees from private plantations at Muttil South village limits in Wayanad district

When the petition filed by Anto Augustine and Jose kutty Augustine, owners of the plantations, against the registration of cases came up for hearing, Director General of Prosecution T.A. Shaji submitted that what had emerged was only a tip of the iceberg. The investigation was only at an initial stage.

In fact, highly influential persons were involved in the case. The accused in the case had carried out the illegal felling, misinterpreting a government order. The officials, including the village officer, were facing an inquiry.

In their petition, the petitioners said the Meppady Forest Range Officer had filed a report alleging commission of offences under the provision of the Kerala Forest Act and Kerala Forest Produce Transit Rules 1975 for cutting and transporting 54 logs of rosewood timber from reserve forest without valid permits.

In fact, they had cut and removed the timber after obtaining all the valid permits/licences. The trees were cut and removed from the property legally owned by them. In fact, the village officer after inspecting the site had certified that the land was not part of any reserved forest. The petitioners could cut and remove the rosewood trees standing in their property even without obtaining permission from the forest or revenue officials in view of the government order in this regard. The right of the petitioner to cut and remove the trees were fully authenticated by the village officer.

They also pointed out that cases were registered against the petitioner’s brother Roji Augustine who was into the timber business. The entire export of the rosewood was monopolised by two traders who did not like the entry of Roji Augustine into the business. This had made the forest officials inimical towards the petitioner’s brother. The 38 cases registered against them were false.

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