Revenue, Forest departments failed in preventing Muttil tree felling, says report

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Thiruvananthapuram: A report on the Muttil tree-felling scam pointed at serious dereliction of duty by revenue and forest department officials.

The forest department chief submitted the report to K Saseendran, Minister for Forest and Wildlife Protection.

A high-level meeting the minister convened on Monday decided to assign a team under Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Vigilance) Ganga Singh to probe the case.

The report has also mentioned similar cases of massive tree felling in Thrissur, Palakkad, Ernakulam and Idukki districts. A statewide probe will be carried out along the special team’s investigation into the incident reported from Muttil in Wayanad.

A government order, issued on October 24, 2020, was misinterpreted to fell and transported centuries-old rosewood trees worth crores of rupees. The order allowed farmers to axe royal trees, except sandalwood, which they had planted and naturally grown on the land assigned to them under the Land Assignment Rules.

Misinterpreting the 2020 order, a large number of trees were felled on the land assigned to the tribal-backward class communities at South Muttil village.

The Meppadi Forest Range Officer has summoned key accused persons Roji Augustine, Anto Augustine and Josekutty Augustine to present themselves within five days. The forest department has registered 42 cases against the accused.

The Department of Revenue, too, has issued notices to the accused men. Though it has been alleged that the men had felled 101 rosewood trees worth Rs 15 crore, the quantum of punishment in cases registered by the forest department will be less.

However, if found guilty in cases registered by the revenue department, the accused could be slapped with penalties up to three times the value of the felled trees. 

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