Felling of rosewood trees in Wayanad: HC junks anticipatory bail pleas of 3 accused

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Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Monday dismissed the anticipatory bail pleas of the three brothers who are accused of cutting down centuries old rosewood trees from a reserved forest in Wayanad district in Kerala.

The court also termed as disturbing that statutory provisions were infringed by officials by issuing executive directions "with impunity."

Justice K Haripal said the brothers were not entitled to any relief as they had "not come to court with clean hands" and vacated the interim protection from arrest that was granted to them.

The high court also said that the Village Officer "was dancing to the tunes" of the brothers and "it does not require much research to say that everything was done to appease and to toe the line of the persons who had applied for such certificates".

"Obviously, the Village Officer was dancing to the tunes of the applicants. He has strained his nerves very much," the court said.

The high court further said that according to the Forest Range Officer's report, one of the three accused had already collected Rs 1.4 crore from a private timber company on the promise of arranging more than 10,000 cubic feet of rosewood.

"It is not known as to how he would arrange so much quantity of Rosewood. he materials produced by the petitioners (brothers) themselves indicate that they have not come with clean hands."

"Such a discretionary relief cannot be granted to the petitioners, who have not acted bona fide.

The petitioners are not entitled to get any relief. The applications are dismissed. The interim order shall stand vacated," the court said.

The three brothers - Anto Augustin, Josekutty Augustin and Roji Augustin - had claimed that they had not committed any offence under the Forest Act or under the Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act.

They had also claimed that the trees were felled after obtaining necessary sanction from the Village Officer.

The state, on the other hand, said that the permissions were obtained from the Village Officer by suppressing material facts.

It also told the court that 43 cases have been registered against unscrupulous timber merchants, in connection with felling of rosewood trees, and in 37 out of those one of the brothers was an accused.

The judge, after hearing both sides, said, "In my opinion, the petitioners (the brothers) have managed things by manipulating records and influencing the officials."

According to the state, around 54 rosewood trees worth crores of Rupees were cut down and transported to lumber companies by the accused without the requisite permits and certificates.

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