Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thiruvananthapuram Revenue Divisional Officer S. Bahuleyan has initiated steps to review the controversial transfer of registry of Merchiston Estate in favour of Xavi Mano Mathew of Southern Field Ventures Private Ltd.

The officer will be considering a communication from the Custodian of Vested Forests N. Gopinath, seeking cancellation of the transfer, as an appeal against the transfer registered on March 30, 2005. Notice is being issued to Mr. Mathew for hearing of the appeal on September 24.

Mr. Mathew had purchased the land from the Birla group company Jayasree Tea and Industries for Rs. 4.55 crore.

The Custodian contended that the transaction was invalid as the estate was vested in Government under the Kerala Forests (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Lands) Ordinance in 2001.

Mr. Mathew maintains that the transaction was legal as tea estates had been excluded from the definition of ecologically fragile lands applicable to Section 3 of the Act that replaced the ordinance in 2003. The provisions of the Act had retrospective effect.

Meanwhile, the Government has placed under suspension Chief Conservator of Forests and former Custodian of Vested Forests V. Gopinath in connection with the steps he had taken for de-notification of the estate as vested forest.

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