Vigilance probe against officials in tree felling case

Union Min Prakash Javadekar seeks report on illegal axing of rosewood trees in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: The Government of Kerala has approved a Vigilance probe against forest and revenue department officials in connection with the illegal felling of protected trees that had caused the State coffers a loss running into crores of rupees.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan granted permission for the Vigilance probe based on the recommendation of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted to look into the case. The order for the Vigilance probe is expected on Saturday.

Indications are that the probe, which will initially be against those named as accused by the SIT, may later extend to senior officials and political leaders.

The chief minister directly ordered to approve the SIT's recommendation despite objections raised by the Home and Vigilance departments. The vigilance probe will be conducted by the present investigation team.

The probe so far has found financial dealings between officials and some who have been arraigned as accused in the case. Besides the four revenue officials already named as accused, four more would be included in the list.

During interrogation, the officials had stated that permission for cutting trees was granted based on the October 24 government order. With this admission, the probe will extend to a possible nexus between officials and politicians, and their dealings.

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