Kerala tree felling case: HC junks bail plea, says value of destroyed assets yet to be assessed
The court issued the order while dismissing the bail plea of Anto Augustin, Josekutty Augustin, Roji Augustin and Vineesh of Wayanad accused in the case related to cutting and removing trees illegally
KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Tuesday observed that the accused in the illegal tree felling cases have destroyed the assets of the state and caused untimely death to the royal trees, expected to remain as our assets for decades, the value of which could not be assessed or predicted at this stage. "So, effecting recovery of the logs which were cut down illegally is not at all a ground to view the criminal act done by them lightly," observed Justice Shircy V.
The court issued the order while dismissing the bail plea of Anto Augustin, Josekutty Augustin, Roji Augustin and Vineesh of Wayanad accused in the case related to cutting and removing trees illegally from Muttil, Wayanad.
V Sreeja, a senior government pleader, submitted that the petitioners along with other accused persons cut 204.635 cubic metres of rosewood trees (Dalbergia latifolia) worth Rs 8 crore from the lands assigned under Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964 of Muttil South without the knowledge of the revenue department.
The court observed that the gravity of the offences alleged against these petitioners is grave and serious in nature as they illegally cut and attempted to remove very valuable and royal trees. Prima facie, the petitioners have attempted to stealthily cut and remove the royal trees and misappropriate the valuable assets of the state. Prima facie, it appears that some government officials expected to work with absolute sincerity were hand in glove with the petitioners to do this illegal act and caused loss to the tune of Rs 8 crore to the state.
"Taking into consideration of the nature of the accusation, the seriousness of the offences committed, reasonable apprehension of tampering with the evidence, and most importantly the larger interest of the state and public, this court is reluctant to exercise the judicial discretion to grant bail in favour of the petitioners," held the court.
The petitioners are under custody since July 28, 2021. If the investigation is not complete and no charge sheet is filed within the stipulated period, they are entitled to default bail and for that, they could approach the trial court, if so advised, which would be decided on its own merits by the jurisdictional court, observed the court.