Tree-felling case: No anticipatory bail for 3 accused, HC raps village officer

Santalum album or the Indian sandalwood tree.

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has termed "disturbing", the state government's action of issuing order at the administrative level in violation of the rules to allow tree cutting in assigned land.

The court made these observations while rejecting the anticipatory bail plea of the accused in the Muttil tree felling case. The court blamed the village officer for dancing to the tunes of the petitioners.

Justice K Harilal rejected the anticipatory bail application of Roji Augustine, Anto Augustine and Josekutty Augustine who are accused in the case pertaining to felling of trees from forest land in Muttil, Wayanad district, under the garb of government order.

While the accused argued that the government was the actual culprit in the case, the court reserved its opinion.

The court pointed out that the petitioners had not sought permission for cutting trees as per the existing rules. The village officer's order cannot be construed as certificate for cutting Rosewood trees.

The Revenue department order which formed the basis of village officer's permission to cut trees, was withdrawn by the government on Feburary 2, 2021. The decision to withdraw the order was taken following a court stay order.

However, the certificate was issued ignoring this fact. The accused got their works done by tampering with the documents and influencing the officials, the court lamented.

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