RANVIJAI SINGH Vs. DIVISIONAL FOREST OFFICER
HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
DIVISIONAL FOREST OFFICER
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C C.CHOWDHRY,J. -
(1.) THIS is an application under Article 226 of the Constitution by Maharaj Ranvijai Singh of Nahan for the issue to the respondents, the Divisional Forest Officer Nahan, the State of Himachal Pradesh and the Conservator of Forests at Nahan, of a writ of mandamus or prohibition, or such directions or orders as may be necessary, preventing them from proceeding with the recovery of Rs. 2,907/12/ as value of trees alleged to have been cut by the petitioner's contractors from Government Forest.
(2.) THE private forest of the petitioner, Known as the Bikram Bagh, and the reserved forest belonging to the Government, known as the Pairiwala, adjoin each other. The petitioner sold some trees in the year 2003 B., corresponding roughly to 1946 A. D., to certain contractors, who felled and removed them. The Forester made a report to the Divisional Forest Officer on 4 1 2004 B. that the contractors had cut and converted into charcoal 150 'kokath' and 44 'khair' trees from the said Government forest. The Divisional Forest officer, after personally verifying the correctness of the Forester's report, made a report to the Conservator of Forests on 19 1 2004 B. Both the reports stated that the stumps of the cut trees bore the hammer mark of the petitioner. The Conservator of Forests directed the Divisional Forest Officer by his letter dated 17 3 2004 B. to realise the price of the 'khair' trees at Rs. 50/ per tree and that of the 'kokath' trees at the standard rates from the petitioner.
After the above intra departmental communications, beginning with the Forester's report and ending with the Conservator's fixation of price of the trees and his direction to the Divisional Forest Officer to realise the same from the petitioner, there ensued an exchange of correspondence between the Divisional Forest Officer and the petitioner consisting of demands by the former for recovery of Rs. 2,907/12/ at the said rates and repudiation of the demands by the latter. The petitioner denied that his contractors had cut any trees from the State forest and Insisted on an inquiry on the spot in his presence before he could be made liable. The Divisional Forest Officer rejected the petitioner's request for an inquiry on the ground that the amount had already been fixed by the Conservator and persisted in his demand for recovery of that amount. In more letters than one the Divisional Forest Officer threatened to take the matter to Court if the amount demanded was not paid. In some of these letters of demand he described the claim as price and in others as compensation. There is also a difference between the parties as to whether the first demand was only made on 24 12 1949, as contended by the petitioner, or whether there had been several demands before that commencing with one dated 27 9 2004 B. It is noteworthy that the demand dated 24 12 1949 was sent to the petitioner per registered post acknowledgment due, & that when referred to the earliest demand relied upon by the respondents, i. e. the one dated 27 9 2004 B., the petitioner (in his letter dated 31 7 1950) did not deny having received it but only pleaded that due to the death of his manager, one Ram Kishan, certain papers had been misplaced.
(3.) THE last demand by the Divisional Forest Officer was made on 12 8 1950. It was described as such and it was stated therein that the petitioner should communicate his final decision by 15 8 1950 otherwise the writer would be compelled to take the matter to Court. To this the petitioner does not appear to have sent any reply. On 19 9 1950 the Divisional Forest Officer addressed a letter to the Deputy Commissioner wherein, after giving a brief history of the case, it was stated that every effort had been made to persuade the petitioner to compound the case on payment of Rs. 2,907/12/ as compensation but without any result, and that the only alternative left was "to chalan the case in the Court". The Deputy Commissioner was asked to exert his influence to recover the compensation, and it was stated in the end that as the case had already been much delayed an early action was requested. A copy of this letter was sent on 30 9 1950 by the Deputy Commissioner to the petitioner with the request to compound the case. About a year later, i. e. on 25 9 1951, the Tahsildar attached the petitioner's car. The petitioner's allegations are that the attachment has been made under directions of respondent 3, the Deputy Commissioner of Sirmur, at the instance of respondent 1, the Divisional Forest Officer Nahan, in order to realise the amount in question as arrears of land revenue, and that the Tahsildar threatened to attach other property of the petitioner also for the realisation of that amount. These allegations have not been denied in the respondents' reply.;
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