Sugandhagiri tree felling case: Forest dept stays suspension of South Wayanad DFO

The probe team has found guilty three forest staff and suspended them pending inquiry. Photo: Special arrangement.

Kalpetta: The Kerala Forest Department has passed an order temporarily staying the suspension of South Wayanad DFO A Shajna and two other officials in the Sugandhagiri tree felling case. 

The case was probed by the vigilance section of the forest department. The current action, directed by Forest Minister A K Saseendran based on the report, acknowledged procedural errors in the handling of the case.

As reported by Manorama News, the government requires a written explanation from the accused officers to proceed with the case in court. The State has sought legal advice on the same and Saseendran directed to seek explanation from the three accused officials.

The suspension order says that even after registering two cases the DFO failed to ensure expected alertness in pursuing the case and in conducting proper field inspection to find out the exact number of trees which were cut. It also cites her failure to prevent the trees from being smuggled.

So far, seven forest department personnel have been suspended in connection with the case. In the initial inquiry conducted by the DFO three field staff, forest watchers M K Balan and Johnson, and section officer K K Chandran were suspended.

As per the case registered by the forest department, there was a massive tree felling at Sugandhagiri Cardamom project land misusing the permits received to fell 20 trees which posed a danger to houses and vehicles. Only 36 illegal tree-felling incidents were mentioned in the preliminary report. An inquiry by the DFO revealed that 107 trees were felled and the remaining parts of the tree stumps were dug out. The report found as many as 18 personnel guilty in the tree-felling case.

The report of the special probe team only recommended seeking an explanation from the DFO and a memo was duly issued to her on Wednesday by the Chief Conservator of Forests Pramod G Krishnan. This memo was withdrawn.

North Wayanad DFO Martin Lowell will assume full additional charge of the South Wayanad Division till other arrangements are in place. Thamarassery Forest Range Officer Vimal will be given additional charge of Kalpetta Flying Squad till further arrangements.

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