The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday ordered issue of notice to the State government on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition complaining that forest encroachers, timber smugglers and others are booking criminal cases under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against forest officers as a counter for booking criminal cases against such forest offenders.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice Aravind Kumar passed the order initiating suo motu action on a petition submitted by the Karnataka State Range Forest Officers’ Association and the Karnataka State Assistant Conservators of Forests Association.

The petition complains that during the past one year, in majority of the cases booked by forest personnel against those indulging in forest encroachment, timber smuggling, poaching, etc., the offenders had lodged counter complaints with the police under the Act. In the case of a murderous attack on Range Forest Officer Madan Naik, who was beaten to death at reserve forests near Dandeli recently, the accused booked a counter complaint against the slain officer under the Act, the petition said.

In one case, the police who accompanied the forest officers’ team in a drive against encroachers in the Golehalli reserve forests, near Dandeli, registered a case against the forest officers under the Act based on a complaint by the offenders, the petition said.

The associations have sought directions to the authorities to quash all cases against forest officers besides seeking initiation of action against police personnel who have registered the case allegedly at the insistence of politically motivated persons.