Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Forest Department has registered a case under non-bailable sections against a man belonging to Tamil Nadu for allegedly trespassing into Ponnambalamedu, a high-security area in the forest which is part of the sacred region of Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, and performing an illegal ‘puja’ there.
The man, Narayana Swamy, engaged in the act within a week before the case was registered, said the report filed by the Forest Department before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Ranni. His address has not been located and he is yet to be arrested.
Meanwhile, Narayana Swamy alleged that he entered Ponnambalamedu and performed Puja there with the approval of forest watchers. He told Manorama Online, “ I live in Thrissur, next to Vadakkumnathan Temple. Previously, I have worked as a helper to Sabarimala priest (keezshanthi). I visit Sabarimala every year. I am a pilgrim and conduct pooja in every place I visit. I have done it in places including the Himalayas.” He added that he did not know that Ponnambalamedu was a high-security area and that none from the police or forest department have contacted him yet.
Narayana Swamy and his accomplices had intruded into Ponnambalamedu reserve forest under Pachakanam forest station in Pampa forest range, which is part of the Periyar Tiger West division.
The sections invoked against Narayana Swamy can invite a sentence of up to three years. They are, Section 27, 51 of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Section 27 (1) e (4) under Kerala Forest Act 1961 along with the amendment of 1999.
Under Section 51 of Wildlife Protection Act, trespassing into a protected forest area could be penalized with a three-year jail sentence or a fine of Rs 25,000 or both. Accused found guilty of harming wildlife, poaching or smuggling parts of wild animals would invite a seven-year jail sentence or a fine of at least Rs 10,000 under this section.
Section 27 of the Kerala Forest Act says that anyone intruding into a protected forest area could be sent to a minimum of one year in jail, a fine of Rs 5,000 or both. The only persons allowed entry into these areas are Forest Department staff on duty and visitors who had obtained permission from chief wildlife warden or other officials.
Meanwhile, the Forest Department’s report filed before the court said that the identities of Narayana Swamy’s accomplices are to be ascertained.