After rosewood scandal, Kerala govt to amend order to allow felling trees on patta land

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Thiruvananthapuram: Amid the raging controversy over the Muttil tree-felling scam, the State government is mulling over issuing a revised order allowing farmers to cut trees that they had planted on the assigned patta land.

The government has instructed the secretaries of Revenue, Forest and Law departments to jointly examine and initiate steps to revise the controversial order, which was cancelled on February 2.

The State’s move is to issue a revised order by correcting the lapses in the repealed order, and making it transparent.

Both the Left Democratic Front and government have been supporting the amendment of the Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964. An order to amendment the rules was issued on August 17, 2017 after discussing with all political parties and the minister’s official-level meetings.

The order permitted landowners to fell trees they had planted—or naturally grown—on assigned patta land, adhering to the Kerala Preservation of Trees Act, 1986. Meetings held on July 18 and September 3, 2019, attended by the ministers of forest and revenue, and officials, had also decided to initiate further action on the order.

However, based on a petition opposing the order, the High Court of Kerala issued an interim order staying the amendment in July last.

The controversial order was issued on October 24 even as the stay was in force. The order specified that royal trees, barring sandalwood, could be felled on patta land.

The Advocate General (AG) later informed the government that the order was issued without noticing or considering the stay. The order was subsequently cancelled.

The government’s view is to proceed after correcting the lapses. The CPI, which handles the revenue portfolio, is opinion that the department will issue its consent for felling trees if all parties are in agreement.

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