KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday directed the government to take steps to prohibit quarrying in the forest areas of the State within three months. Justice S. Siri Jagan issued the direction on a writ petition filed by Moly Susan, proprietor of a granite firm at Chalakudy, against the action of authorities stopping quarrying in her three acres land at Mupliyam village.

The court observed that forest wealth was dwindling in the State. The government was not taking appropriate steps to conserve whatever little forest wealth that was left. It was only in public interest that all non-forest activities should be prohibited. Quarrying in forest areas was a non-forest activity.

The court expressed the opinion that quarrying should be prohibited in forest areas. But, the government which was starved of funds could not find any means other than selling the natural wealth for a paltry sum.

Sexual harassment

Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan directed the Registrar of Cooperative Societies to issue circulars, with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the Visakha case including formation of committees, to hear complaints of sexual harassment in cooperative society institutions.

The judge gave the direction on a writ petition filed by P.P. Uthuppan, president, Kothamangalam Housing Cooperative Bank, against a women’s commission directive to form a complaint committee in the bank. The women commission passed the directive on a petition filed by K.S. Girija, a senior officer, who alleged that she was denied promotion as secretary because she resisted the president’s sexual overtures. The commission had directed the Registrar to consider her complaint.

The court observed that the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court had to be observed by all institutions including private ones and cooperative societies.

Welfare fund

A Bench of Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair and Justice V.K. Mohanan held that educational institutions were not liable to pay contribution to the motor transport workers welfare fund on behalf of the workers engaged in their school vehicles.

Allowing writ petitions filed by educational institutions in the State, the court said that though educational institutions transported students and staff to their institutions and back, they could not be treated as transport undertakings. The contribution should only be paid by those engaged in motor transport business.

The court directed Regional Transport Officers to receive motor vehicle taxes for vehicles of educational institutions without demanding payment of the contribution. The Motor Transport Workers Welfare Fund Board was directed not to demand contribution from education institutions.

Abhaya case

Justice V. Ramkumar orally said that the question whether one or three compact discs on the narco-analysis test in the Sister Abhaya case had been sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) could be decided only after receiving further report from the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore.