HC for guidelines on SC/ST cases against forest officials

HC for guidelines on SC/ST cases against forest officials

 The High Court on Tuesday directed the government to frame guidelines to deal with the atrocity cases filed against Forest officials by people belonging to the SC/ST communities, accused of illegal activities in the forests.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice B V Nagarathna disposed of a suo motu PIL after taking into account the submission made by amicus curiae K N Phanindra. 

The amicus curiae submitted a draft stating that when the forest officials are clearing encroachments in the forests and preventing poaching and other illegal activities, counter complaints under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, are being filed by persons accused of having committed offences under Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The court was informed about the hesitation on the part of the forest personnel to promptly and effectively take up various drives, due to the fear of the counter complaints. “The loss of morale among the forest personnel is thus endangering precious forests and wildlife,” the court was informed.

Following the submission made by the Forest department, the government early this month issued an order that “in any complaint of atrocity under the provisions of SC/ST Act, 1989, against the forest officials (during the discharge of their official duties) a preliminary Magisterial Inquiry by the Executive Magistrate of the concerned jurisdictional area shall be mandatorily conducted prior to any action being taken by the police. Till the recommendation of the Magisterial Inquiry is received and examined, the forest officers who had taken action to protect government property should not be arrested or proceeded against.”

Nominations quashed

The High Court has quashed the nominations of two persons to the Karnataka State Board of Wakfs, declaring the process as flawed as it was made based on the recommendations of former chief minister D V Sadananda Gowda and the then BJP State unit president K S Eshwarappa.

Justice A N Venugopala Gowda passed the order and allowed the petition filed by Karnataka Wakfs Protection Joint Action Committee. The petitioner has contended that Alhaj N Noor Basha, vice-president of Alwar-ul-Haq Minorities Institutions, Bellary, and Moulana Syed Mohammed Ibrahim, Imam of Masjid-e-Askari, Richmond Town, Bangalore, were nominated purely on the basis of recommendations made by the State president of the then ruling party. 

During the hearing, the bench observed that the nominations were not made based on qualification, but purely on the recommendations.

It said that eminent persons should have been appointed, as the board’s activities are related to the welfare of the Muslim community. The bench observed that ‘whimsical exercise of power is very much apparent’ and quashed the nominations made.

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