PIL seeks Central Bureau of Investigation probe

The Madras High Court bench here has ordered notice to the Forest Department authorities and the Meghamalai Wildlife Forest Division on a public interest litigation petition seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged illegal felling of trees in the Meghamalai hills.

Petitioner M.J. Jeyapaul (63) of Theni claimed in his petition that a few forest officials acted in connivance with private estate owners and real estate businessmen in felling and transporting valuable trees such as ‘thodakathi’, ‘venkhai’, ‘sukkunari’, ‘thuvarai’, ‘uthratcham’ and ‘milagunari’ from the Meghamalai forest area.

According to Mr.Jeyapaul, the Assistant Conservator of Forest, Madurai, had submitted a report to the Chief Conservator of Forest in Chennai on March 15, 2012 after an inspection in the forest that the manager of a private tea and coffee estate had illegally cut 96 varieties of valuable trees from the forest and transported them to the Venniyar Estate.

The Forest Ranger of Cumbum Range had sent a communication to the Wildlife Warden of the Meghamalai Wildlife Forest Division on December 30, 2012 that 114 trees such as ‘koina’, ‘milagunari’ and ‘nilasathiyam’, weighing 30 tonnes, were illegally cut from the forest by the private estate manager and transported in violation of the Tamil Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act, 1955, he added.

However, in reply to the petitioner’s RTI application, the Forest Department officials stated that no action was initiated against the private estate and the officials who had acted in connivance with the timber smugglers, the petitioner claimed.

Therefore, he pleaded with the court to issue a direction to the Secretary of Forest Department, Principal Conservator of Forest, District Collector of Theni and Madurai Regional Conservator of Forest to initiate action against the officials who acted in connivance with the timber smugglers.

The court adjourned the case till January 7.