IN RE: S.P. NAIDU Vs. STATE
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
In Re: S.P. Naidu
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K.N.Mudaliyar, J. -
(1.) THIS revision petition is directed against the conviction of the petitioner under Sections 3(2) and (7) of the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act, 1949.
(2.) IN essence, the complaint of the prosecution is that in S. No. 567 of Nelliyalam Village, the forest officials found one Ramakrishnan cutting earth and clearing the undergrowth for about a quarter acre and building the shed therein. On the evidence of P.Ws. 1 and 2 that there has been clearance of the undergrowth in the area in question (41/2 grounds), mainly the conviction is based. Mr. R. Vaidyanatha Iyer, Counsel for the Petitioner assailed the conviction on the ground that the learned Sub -Magistrate has really misappreciated the evidence on record; that the learned Magistrate has further erred in interpreting the proviso to Section 3 (2) of the Act.
(3.) P .W. 1 states in chief -examination that one Ramakrishnan has cut the earth and was building a shed measuring 22'X 12'. The earth was cut for about 1/4 acre. His further evidence is that the shed is in the occupation of Ramakrishnan, a labourer, of the estate. P.W. 2 says that he enquired Ramakrishnan who was residing in the shed and that Ramakrishnan said that he collected the poles from the trees in S. No. 567 itself. According to this witness, the ground is levelled and the soil is disturbed by Ramakrishnan. His further evidence is that the act of removing the mud diminishes the utility of the forest and diminishes the forest. He further speaks to the fact of Ramakrishnan being an employee of the Estate and of the shed having been constructed for his occupation. On this evidence alone, the prosecution ought to have failed, for it is true the accused was under instructions directing the cutting of the trees or reeds in the area in question viz., 41/2 grounds in an area of 4,500 acres. I am afraid cutting trees or reeds has to be read in the context of the accused doing any act likely to denude the forest or diminish its utility as a forest. I am not in a position to interpret that the clearance of 4 grounds, although there is the cutting of trees or reeds, would be an act likely to denude the forest or its utility as a forest. There is the further protection for the accused, supplied from the proviso to Sub -section (2) of Section 3 of the Act. The proviso runs as follows:
Provided that nothing contained in this sub -section shall apply to the removal of dead or fallen trees or to any act done for the usual or customary domestic purposes or for making agricultural implements.
It is argued before me that this cutting of reeds or undergrowth was necessary for erection of a shed for the habitation of Ramakrishnan, the labourer of the Estate such an act is done for the usual or customary domestic purpose of the Estate.;
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