Revenue orders a breach of existing Acts

Suspicions have been raised about the role of vested interests behind several government orders that went against the Acts legislated in the Assembly in view of the illegal felling of rosewood trees in Wayanad.

Top sources told The Hindu that these revenue orders were in blatant contravention to the Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964; the Kerala Land Assignment Amendment Rules, 2017, the Kerala Preservation of Trees Act, 1986, and the Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non Forest Areas Act, 2005.

The revenue orders for felling trees, a key government informant said, had been issued with ulterior motives only to benefit the timber traders rather than cultivators who had been granted ‘patta’ lands by the government with a land revenue exemption. Incidentally, the revenue orders were intended for a short period only to facilitate corruption, the informant said.

Felling of trees not only resulted in large-scale damage to the environment but also financial loss to the State exchequer. Those who knew about the underhand dealings also maintained a heedless silence, the informant pointed out.

The sources said that the whole issue had started after the government issued an unwarranted order on October 24, 2020, which was actually a continuation of its previous order on March 11, 2020.

As per law, the full right of scheduled trees (teak, rosewood, ebony and sandalwood) vested with the government. But the revenue order permitted all trees could be cut, except sandalwood, without any amendment in the rules, the sources said.

Besides, they said the Kerala Assignment Amendment Rules 2017 had been effected from August 17, 2017, and had no retroactive provision. The amendment had not changed the status of the four scheduled trees. Besides, the seigniorage rate of timber and other forest produce was not for the scheduled trees.

Sources said the Preservation of Trees Act 1986 restricted the cutting of 10 trees including teak, rosewood and sandalwood. Similarly it banned the felling of these trees in notified areas. Further, felling of any trees in ‘patta’ lands had been restricted according to Section 22 of the Preservation of Trees, 1986.

This apart, the sources said that restriction of felling had been in place in notified villages under Section 6 of Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act. However, the land assigned to tribespeople and in the Cardamom Hill Reserve would not come under the definition of Non Forest Area clause, they said.

Then again the law had specified against felling of teak, rosewood, Irul (Xylia xylocarpa), Thempavu (Terminalia tomantosa), Kampakam (Hopea parviflora), Vellakil (Dysoxylum malabaricum) , Chadachi (Grewia tiliaefolia), Chandanavempu (Cedrela toona) and ebony.

Sources said the government could declare certain villages as notified areas where restriction was enforced. Thus mangrove areas, coffee plantations and cardamom plantations were treated in this category. But the revenue orders threw to the wind the prevailing Acts and Rules, they said.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:58:02 PM |

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