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RFOs armed with police powers

Govt re-issues notification, widens ambit of forest law
Last Updated : 02 July 2010, 19:15 IST
Last Updated : 02 July 2010, 19:15 IST

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 According to a July 1 notification issued by the State Forest Department, all RFOs have been accorded the position of officers-in-charge in their respective jurisdiction and will, therefore, be able to exercise the powers enjoyed by a police officer under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The order, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald, will come into effect retrospectively, in this case from 2000.

What is, however, interesting is that the police powers to the RFOs are being conferred 10 years after the Karnataka Forest Act was amended to include and recognise that forest department staff be vested with the authority to seize, arrest and prosecute people found indulging in wildlife and forest-related crimes.

Notification re-issued

Explaining the reasons for the delay, Forest Ecology and Environment Department principal secretary Meera Saxena said: “Though we had issued a notification in this regard, it went missing. We have now re-issued it.”

Senior state government sources indicated that the scope and ambit of Section 61-A of the Karnataka Forest Act was being widened in the wake of serious charges that outgoing Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde has levelled against the B S Yeddyurappa administration in the context of the disappearance of over 5 million metric tonnes of iron ore from Belekeri port early last month.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Justice Hegde expressed his happiness and satisfaction over the notification, saying that the government order will now empower forest officers to prevent offences like the ore theft at Belekeri. “Ultimately, however, everything will depend on the honesty and integrity of individual officers. But it (the order) is one step forward,” he said.

Justice Hedge said the state government must undertake an exercise for wider consultation, involving all agencies, so that the order is not only implemented to its letter but also “make the law foolproof and the officers accountable”.

The government order, according to Principal Conservator of Forest I B Srivastava, has come following the Karnataka High Court’s directions in which the judges sought to know the powers of RFOs during the hearing of the Belekeri iron ore scam.

Forest department sources said after learning about the pending notification, the HC had directed the State government to issue it immediately.

Accordingly, the RFOs can now function as police officers who are bound by the provisions of the CrPC. They will exercise the authority that police officers do under Section 156 of the CrPC, an official clarified.

Welcoming the notification, well-known wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi said the order will free RFOs from lodging complaints with the police. The notification extends to both territorial and wildlife divisions.

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Published 02 July 2010, 19:14 IST

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