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Forest dept wants HC Green Bench to hear land grab case

Kerala-based IPS officers wife accused of encroaching and illegally felling trees in Kodagu
Last Updated : 02 October 2012, 17:43 IST
Last Updated : 02 October 2012, 17:43 IST

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The Forest department has requested the Advocate General to file a memo before the High Court to refer the case of encroachment of 151.03 acres of land at Kopatti village in the Patti Ghat reserve forest in Kodagu district to the Green Bench.

The department has been making futile efforts for the last 19 years to the retrieve the land from the wife of an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from Kerala. Referring the case to the Green Bench is expected to expedite the case.

The move comes in the backdrop of the State Legislature Assurance Committee recently seeking an explanation from the government in this regard.

The Committee, headed by legislator B C Nagesh, met on September 18 and 26 and sought to know from the government, what action had been taken to implement the assurances and announcements it had made in the Assembly in May 1998 — pertaining to the alleged encroachment and felling of trees without valid permits by Daisy Jacob, who is the wife wife of IPS officer Jacob Thomas.

H D Basavaraj, the then legislator, had raised the matter in the Assembly on May 16, 1998. The Forest minister had said a Corps of Detectives (CoD) probe would be ordered.

Now, the Assurance Committee wants categorical replies from the government to all the questions raised in the Assembly, regarding the encroachment. IFS officers R Sridharan, Principal Secretary, M Nagaraj Hampole, Secretary, and A K Varma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, among others, had appeared before the panel on September 18.

Long battle

The Daisy Jacob case, popularly known as the Kopatti case, is one of the longest legal battles being fought by the Forest department.

In 1990, Jacob purchased 151.03 acres of land in survey numbers 1/1, 1/19 and 1/23 at Kopatti. Forest officials argue that this was allowed despite the property being part of the Patti Ghat reserve forest since 1904, as per the Coorg gazette notification.

She also faces charges of felling an additional 63 full-grown trees illegally, while she had permission to fell only 237 trees. As late as in 2000, the department realised that she had felled 230 trees, the value of which was put at Rs 1,77,63,172.

While the Tree Officer refused to permit the felling of trees, the Tree Authority gave the go-ahead. Strikingly, the Deputy Director of Land Records, Mangalore, had reported that the applicant had also encroached upon 38.50 acres in survey no. 1/15 and axed almost all 25,000 trees in order to cultivate rubber from them.

The department has filed a case in the Bhagamandala police station. She has been asked to pay a fine of Rs 1,57,61,919. A civil suit was filed against her in April 1999.

Probe

The government had referred the Kopatti case to the Yellappa Reddy Commission for a probe. The Commission examined the area surveyed by the Survey of India, and found her to be in excess possession of 23.69 acres.

The government had also asked the CoD to probe the scam. The investigating agency filed a ‘B’ report (no case) in 2003, which has been challenged by the Range Forest Officer of Bhagamandala.

This was opposed by her in the High Court in 2003. The court, while dismissing the petition in 2009, allowed the case to be continued in the JMFC court of Madikeri. Except one, she won all the cases against the department.  She has sought permanent prohibitory injunction against the government from entering her land.

Now, the department is in the process of making an all out effort to retrieve the land which is worth crores of rupees. An acre of land in Kodagu costs not less than Rs 25 lakh, officials explained, to point out the sc ale of money involved.

The department filed two appeals in the High Court in 2011 and both have come up for hearing only once. Now, the department is keen to get the appeals heard by the Green Bench.

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Published 02 October 2012, 17:43 IST

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