(1.) THE present petition has been preferred against the order passed by the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Devgadhbaria, Dist: Panchmahals (now Dahod) dated 31st August, 2003 in offence no. 17 of 2002-2003 passed under sections 41 and 61 of The Indian Forests Act, 1927 as well as against the order dated 16th July, 2004 in Criminal Appeal No. 9of 2004 passed by the learned Sessions Judge, Panchmahals at Godhra, whereby the order passed by the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Devgadhbaria was upheld and the appeal was dismissed. The order passed by the Deputy Conservator of Forests is about confiscation of forest produces and the vehicle involved in transporting teakwood. Against these concurrent findings, the present Special Criminal Application has been preferred by the owner of the vehicle.
(2.) HAVING heard the learned advocates for both the sides and looking to the facts and circumstances of the case, I see no reason to entertain the present petition mainly for the following facts and reasons: (i) It appears that on 24th September, 2002 at about 5. 00 a. m. , checking squad of forest came across a tempo bearing registration No. GJ 17-T-6453. Forest Officer asked about the teakwood and whether they have got any licence or permit for transporting of the same. Immediately the persons who were in the aforesaid tempo, abused the Forest Officer and there was a pelting of stones upon the officer. The Forest Officer shouted and therefore, from the nearby houses, people rushed and, therefore, the persons who were with the aforesaid tempo ran way into forest, leaving tempo-a vehicle with teak wood therein. This is how teak wood as well as tempo vehicle was seized by the Forest Officer. (ii) It appears that thereafter, an offence bearing no. 10 of 2002-2003 was registered. There were total 32 pieces of teakwood which was 2. 516 cubic meter. Looking to the nature of teak wood, it is observed that they were freshly cut teak wood pieces. Statements were recorded of the village persons. Thereafter, RTO officer of Godhra was contacted by the Forest Officer and the owner of the tempo was found. Petitioner is the owner of the vehicle seized. Several notices were issued to the present petitioner, but he has never remained present before Forest Officer nor any reply was given by the present petitioner. All these notices were given under section 61-C of the Indian Forests Act, 1927. (iii) It also appears from the evidence on record that the petitioner has no licence of transporting of teakwood which was seized by the Forest Officer. The notices given to the petitioner are at exhs. 9, 11, 17 and 19 as per the order passed by the Deputy Conservator of Forest dated 31st August, 2003, but there was no reply of all these notices. Thus, the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Devgadhbaria had confiscated forest products as well as the vehicle vide order dated 31st August, 2003. (iv) Looking to the order passed by the learned Sessions Judge, Panchmahals at Godhra dated 16th July, 2004, the reasons given in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the impugned order are absolutely true, correct and in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1927. No error has been committed by both the courts below. The vehicle in question was used in committing offence under Indian Forests Act, 1927. Forest produce i. e. teakwood was transported illegally and unauthorisedly in the aforesaid tempo vehicle bearing registration no. GJ 17-T 4653 on 23rd September, 2003. The provisions of the Act of 1927 have been followed scrupulously. Notices were issued to the owner of the vehicle. No reply was given to this notice. Once vehicle is used in transporting forest produces unauthorisedly and illegally, and there is no explanation worth the name by the original owner of the vehicle despite several notices issued by the Forest Officer. The vehicle has been rightly confiscated by the Forest Officer. No error has been committed either by the Deputy Conservator of Forests or by the learned Sessions Judge. On the contrary, the reasons given by the Deputy Conservator of Forests as well as by the Sessions Court are absolutely true and correct and in consonance with the evidence on record and in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1927. I therefore, see no reason to interfere with the aforesaid orders. (v) The learned advocate for the petitioner has placed reliance on the decision rendered by this Court in the case of State of Gujarat vs. Shantilal Mansukhlal Mistry and others reported in 1995 (1) GLR, 860. On the basis of the aforesaid decision, the learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the Court has ample power to return the vehicle to the petitioner by imposing some penalty in lieu of confiscation of the vehicle. This contention is not accepted by this Court looking to the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, especially the fact that despite several notices were issued by the Forest Officer, no reply worth the name was given by the present petitioner. Secondly for the reason that he has never remained present before Deputy Conservator of Forests, so as to give oral reply and thirdly for the reason that looking to the peculiar facts and circumstances that when the vehicle in question was stopped by the Forest Officer, not only the Forest Officers were abused but stones were pelted on them by the persons accompanying the vehicle in question and thereafter, Forest Officer shouted and villagers rushed to the place of offence and therefore, driver and cleaner of the tempo left the vehicle and ran away. If this vehicle is returned to the applicant, there are all chances of its repeated use to transport, unauthorisedly, forest produce.
(3.) IN this set of circumstances, I see no reason to alter the order of confiscation passed by the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Devgadhbaria and confirmed by the learned Sessions Judge, Panchmahals at Godhra. There is no substance in this petition. Hence, the same is hereby dismissed. Rule is discharged. Interim relief, if any, stands vacated.;