Lokayukta order not valid: Forest deptartment

Forest Dept has claimed that Lokayukta has no jurisdiction in the Reserve unless corruption

Bengaluru: The Forest Department has sought an opinion from the Legal Department after the Lokayukta ordered them to build a road and draw a power line for tribesmen living deep inside the BRT Tiger Reserve.

During his visit to a tribal settlement in the reserve last month, Lokayukta Justice Y. Bhaskar Rao had ordered the director of the tiger reserve to immediately provide basic amenities to the tribals living inside the protected area. The Lokayukta also said that a power line should be drawn till the tribal settlement to provide facilities for forest dwellers based on a Supreme Court judgement of 1983.

But the Forest Department has claimed that the Lokayukta has no jurisdiction in the Tiger Reserve unless the officials there are involved in some kind of corruption. “If my officer says he cannot build a road inside the reserve, he cannot. We must get approval from the Union ministry for carrying out any kind of non-forestry activities inside the forests. At a time when the tribals are requesting for resettlement outside the forests, investing on roads and power lines does not make any sense,” said a forest officer.

Justice Rao, however, justified his directions, saying that he was only following a Supreme Court order. “I have issued orders based on a Supreme Court judgement and the forest department must provide basic amenities to the tribals,” he said.

The forest officials are expected to write a letter to the Lokayukta, explaining why his orders cannot be carried out. “There have been several orders by the Supreme Court in the later years which supersede that judgement which is now being referred to by the Lokayukta. He has powers to investigate corruption and malpractices in the administration. But when it comes to tiger reserves, the Lokayukta cannot overrule the wildlife laws like Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act which have been enacted by Parliament and the rulings been given by the Supreme Court,” a forest official said.

The forest officials pointed out that at least 100 families settled inside the BRT Reserve are being convinced to move out of the protected area. “ So far, there has been no relocation process in the BRT Reserve, but there have been discussions being held between the forest officials and tribal families over the last few months,” said a senior forest official.

( Source : dc )
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