How forest dept treated 'VIP' encroachers with kid gloves

How forest dept treated 'VIP' encroachers with kid gloves

57 parties illegally occupied 1,446 acres, but no cases against 14

How forest dept treated 'VIP' encroachers with kid gloves

The law seems to be biased when it comes to action against forest land encroachers. The Forest department, acting on the direction of the Karnataka High Court, has booked FOCs (forest offence cases) against only some encroachers in Koppa division, Chikkamagaluru circle.

The department report has pointed out that 57 persons have encroached forest land in the division. Of these, the department has not initiated FOCs against 14 encroachers.

The High Court had directed the department to submit a periodical action taken report while hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Samaja Parivartana Samudaya (SPS). During the hearing, SPS had filed a memo in September 2013, with a list of 87 encroachers in Chikkamagaluru circle. The court directed the department to take action in all these cases.

The list, prepared by the department officials after conducting fresh survey, confirmed encroachment of 1,446 acres of forest land by 57 individuals and some estates in the division. The report, to be submitted before the court, reveals that FOCs have been booked against only a few encroachers.

The report confirmed that some individuals have encroached large tracts of land (155 acres, 161 acres and 64.39 acres). 

“During our field visits in the district, we found that vast area of forest land was in illegal possession and enjoyment of certain individuals for a long time. However, the list prepared by the Forest department, after taking up fresh survey, shows that only in some cases, FOCs have been registered, while in a few major encroachment cases, no action has been taken. This is clearly a very serious violation of fundamental rights under Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution that mandates to treat all persons as equal before the law. It is, therefore, very essential to not only immediately register FOCs, but also take appropriate action against officials who have treated certain encroachers as “privileged offenders,” which is non-est in law,” S R Hiremath of SPS said.

The list, prepared by the department’s Koppa division, shows that in 10 cases, FOCs have been registered, while in some other cases, proceedings under Section 64 (a) of Karnataka Forest Act have been initiated. The list includes only people and entities who encroached more than 30 acres of forest land.

“We objected to this selected registration of FOCs and the DCF concerned of the Koppa division has written to the Chief Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru, seeking directions to register FOCs. When the local officials have the right to take criminal action against encroachers, why are they seeking permission from their seniors? There are several encroachments below 30 acres. The department has to take stringent action against these encroachers also,” Hiremath said.