CAT stays appointment of IFS officer indicted in Muttil tree-felling case

NT Sajan
NT Sajan. Screengrab/MMTV

Kozhikode: The appointment of Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer NT Sajan as the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Southern Zone, has been stayed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).

In the latest reshuffle in the Kerala Forest Department Sajan was given the high-level posting despite his role in the Muttil tree-felling case. Sajan was the Social Forestry Deputy Conservator at Kollam when he was named as the CCF, Southern Zone.

Earlier an inquiry conducted by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests had indicted Sajan for gross misconduct in the tree-felling case, but he escaped with a mere transfer from Kozhikode to Kollam. The Chief Minister's Office (CMO) reportedly took a stand that the charges were not that serious to take action against the IFS officer.

It was alleged the present promotion was given to Sajan with the aim of giving him a future posting in Kozhikode as the CCF, Northern Zone. Earlier, it was due to the intervention of the forest minister that the move by the CMO to post Sajan back in Kozhikode was aborted.

The minister had then noted in the file that it would give a wrong message if the tainted official was posted again in Kozhikode when the inquiry was going on in the Muttil tree-felling case.

(The case is over the illegal felling of protected trees from land assigned to individuals by the government and there smuggling by private parties in cahoots with Forest Department employees. Such illegal felling of trees was reported from Muttil area of Wayanad and several other places across the state.)

As reported earlier resentment has been brewing in the Forest Department over the transfer of some IFS officers in a haphazard manner in total violation of service rules and without the concurrence of the head of the Department. Some IFS officers aggrieved over transfers were planning to approach the CAT.

Washing his hands of the controversial transfer orders, Forest Minister AK Saseendran said that a decision on transfers was not taken by him. He added that promotion and transfers were routine administrative matters.

Incidentally, Northern Zone Deputy Conservator of Forest DK Vinod Kumar, who was also holding the charge of the CCF there, was shunted out as the Deputy Conservator of the Kollam Forestry unit. Vinod Kumar who inquired into the Manikunnumala tree-felling case, which is connected to the Muttil case, had filed a report against Sajan. If Sajan's appointment as the CCF, Southern Zone, gets clearance after the CAT proceedings Vinod Kumar has to report to the former. Many feel that this may lead to friction on administrative matters.

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