Non-cognisable offences: Forest officials get guidelines

Non-cognisable offences: Forest officials get guidelines
The Forest Department has issued a circular to heads of its different wings on the procedure to be followed in respect of non-cognisable offences.

The circular also has guidelines to Range Forest Officers (RFOs) on obtaining prior permission from the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) courts before investigation.

The department’s action followes a report, ‘Ignorant forest officers, weak law letting offenders off the hook’ published in Deccan Herald on April 04, 2016. The report highlighted how forest offenders in the state are going scot-free due to the ignorance of officials to book violators of the Forest Act. In most cases, the High Court was quashing the proceedings on mere technical grounds that magistrate’s permission had not been sought and this has been going on for ages.

M S Goudar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head Quarters & Co-ordination) said that a meeting has already been held among the Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) about holding a workshop for the RFOs to educate them. Shortly the RFOs will be given a training on the legal issues. 

The forest department in its circular, issued on April 21, 2016 has stated that many offences registered under various sections of the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, are non-cognisable and a RFO would require permission from the jurisdictional magistrate to go ahead with the investigation. As per Clause II of the First Schedule to the Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, an offence punishable with imprisonment for less than three years or with fine only is a non-cognisable offence.

The punishment prescribed for the offences committed under Sections 24(f), 24(g), 24(gg), 24(h) and 73 (d) of the Karnataka Forest Act,1963 is imprisonment for a term which extends to one year or with fine which may extend to Rs 2,000 or with both.

Further, as per Section 155(2) of the CrPC, no police officer shall investigate a non-cognisable case without the order of the magistrate having power to try such case or commit the case for trial.

About amending the Forest Act, the forest department is trying to collect the amendments made in other states and hold a meeting with Forest Minister B Ramanath Rai to discuss possibilities and table the Forest Act Amendment Bill in the next Legislature session, he said.

Bihar and Andhra Pradesh have already amended their Forest Act and have made the offences cognisable, enabling RFOs to book and investigate the case directly without having to get permission from the magistrate.

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