P BALARAJU Vs. FOREST RANGE OFFICER
HIGH COURT OF ANDHRA PRADESH
FOREST RANGE OFFICER, CHINTHAPALLI
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(1.)The petitioner belongs to a scheduled tribe. He resides in Sankada, Gudem Kothaveedhi Mandal, Visakhapatnam District. He claims that he is an agriculturist and owns twenty acres of land wherein there are tamarind trees. The produce of the tamarind trees is stated to be about 5,000 kgs. per year. On 31st July, 1989, the Forest Range Officer, Narsipatnam, the second respondent herein, with hss staff, broke open the lock of the door of the house which was used by the petitioner as godown for storing tamarind and seized 90 bags of tamarind containing 4,345 kgs. of seeded tamarind and 1,184 kgs. of deseeded tamarind. The seizure was under panchanama dated 31-7-1989. The validity of the said seizure is questioned in this writ petition as being illegal and without jurisdiction.
(2.)The first respondent filed counter-affidavit stating inter alia that there is no proof that the petitioner has 93 tamarind trees in Sankada village. It is stated that, on information from the Thanadar of Yetigavarammapeta Forest Thana, on 31-7-1989, at about 2-30 AM, the Forest Range Officer, Narsipatnam, and his staff proceeded to enquire about the illegal transport of tamarind. The tamarind was said to be unloaded and kept in the house of one Shri Golusu Joga Rao which was locked. It is stated that the Forest Range Officer did not break open the lock. It is stated that Shri V. Appa Rao, Forester, recorded the statement. It is, however, submitted that under Section 14 of the Andhra Pradesh Minor Forest Produce (Regulation of Trade) Act, 1971, (for short 'the Act of 1971') the Forest Range Officer is empowered to seize the tamarind stored illegally and, therefore, the action is valid in law. It is denied that the tamarind was sold by the writ petitioner to the Girijan Corporation. It is added that the petitioner has admitted the offence in his statement dated 9-8-1989 and gave bank guarantee of rupees twenty thousand towards the payment of the compounding fees of Rs.40,278/- worked out under the Rules. In the circumstances of the case, it is prayed that the writ petition be dismissed.
(3.)In the reply-affidavit filed by the petitioner, it is stated, inter alia, that in view of the provisions of Regulation 6 of the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Minor Forest Produce (Regulation of Trade) Regulations, 1979 (for short 'the Regulations of 1979'), Section 14 of the Act of 1971 has no application to the scheduled areas. Therefore, the seizure is unauthorised. The first respondent filed an additional counter-affidavit stating that the petitioner has no land and no tamarind trees and so, in the circumstances, it is concluded that the petitioner illegally collected and stored the tamarind which is included in the forest produce as per Section 68 read with clause (9) (12) (1) of Section 2 of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1967 (for short 'the Act') and prayed that the writ petition be dismissed.
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