Kozhikode: Tightening the screws on those accused of felling trees at Muttil village in Wayanad, the Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department has invoked sections 7 and 24 of Kerala Biological Diversity Acts and relevant Rules against them.
The Department submitted a report to a local court at Bathery after including these two sections. The non-bailable sections pertain to felling rosewood trees without the permission of the Biodiversity Board.
If found guilty, the accused would be punished with an imprisonment of three years and a penalty of Rs 5 lakh each.
The Biological Diversity Act is meant to protect farmers from middlemen. Though the Act had come into force in 2002, forest rangers were empowered to charge cases under its sections only in 2016.
Since the Act excluded farmers, the Forest Department invoked the sections against the three brothers and middlemen accused of illegally felling protected tree species in Muttil.
The 43 cases registered by the Forest Department in the Muttil incident were found legally weak as only two cases were filed under non-bailable sections. In the remaining 41 cases, the accused, if guilty, could get a maximum punishment of Rs 100 and an imprisonment of six months each. The inclusion of Biological Diversity Acts and Rules has now strengthened the case.
Tree felling rampant across Kerala
Felling of trees on assigned deeded lands is rampant in Kerala. It is carried out on a massive scale and the quantum could be beyond preliminary estimates, the investigation teams of the Forest Department have found.
The Department is unlikely to submit a report to the Forest Minister A K Saseendran on Tuesday as planned. It may take more days since the Forest Department headquarters have, till Monday, received the reports only from Wayanad and Thrissur.
The department headquarters is yet to receive reports from Ernakulam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta, the three districts where tree felling has been suspected to be rampant. The teams are yet to complete their probe in these districts.
The Forest Department will be compiling the reports from the districts before handing it over to the minister.