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Mu.Mutheiah vs The Principal Chief Conservator on 10 June, 2011

Madras High Court
Mu.Mutheiah vs The Principal Chief Conservator on 10 June, 2011
       

  

  

 
 
 BEFORE THE MADURAI BENCH OF MADRAS HIGH COURT

DATED: 10/06/2011

CORAM
THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE D.HARIPARANTHAMAN

Writ Petition (MD) No.12249 of 2008
and
M.P.(MD) Nos.1 of 2008 and 1 and 2 of 2009

Mu.Mutheiah				...	Petitioner

Vs.

1.The Principal Chief Conservator
         of Forest,
    Panagal Maligai,
    Saidapet,
    Chennai - 15.

2.The Conservator of Forests,
   Virudhunagar Division,
   Virudhunagar.  			...	Respondents

Prayer

Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying
for the issuance of a writ of Certiorari, to call for the records relating to
the order passed by the 1st respondent in his proceedings br.K.Order
No.MM3/20898/08 dated 10.09.2008 rejecting the petitioner's appeal dated
11.04.2008 preferred against the order of punishment passed by the 2nd
respondent in his proceedings br.K.M.No.4840 C dated 31.10.2007 and quash the
same as illegal.

!For petitioner 	 ...	Mr.H.Mohammed Imran for
				Mr.M.Ilango
^For respondents 	 ...	Mrs.S.Bharathi, G.A.

:ORDER

The petitioner worked as Forest Ranger at Tiruchuzhi Social Forest Range
from 10.06.2005 to 27.11.2006. During his tenure, the works under the scheme of
Tamil Nadu Afforestation Project for the year 2005 – 2006 was carried out by
him. Under the said scheme, 27500 seedlings, with an extent of 125 Hectares
were planted. The audit team audited during the period between 06.12.2006 and
10.12.2006. The audit team found that as per records 27500 seedlings were
planted and there was short fall of 10680 seedlings. They estimated the loss
due to the short fall at Rs.2,28,616/-.

2. Based on the said audit report, the petitioner was issued a charge memo
dated 27.08.2007 under Rule 17(a) of Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline and
Appeal) Rules. The petitioner submitted his explanation dated 09.10.2007. He
explained that he joined as a Forest Ranger in Tiruchuzhi Forest Range only on
10.06.2005. The area of planting the seedlings was identified by his
predecessor. There was no demarcation of forest land. There was no boundary
stones. He planted the seedlings in the area chosen by his predecessor. The
Divisional Forest Officer and the Conservator of Forests visited the project so
many times and they did not find fault with his work. The petitioner also
pointed out that he wrote a letter dated 14.09.2006 to the Divisional Forest
Officer about the plants were being destroyed by the revenue officials, when
they acquired certain areas for distributing lands under the Government Scheme
of providing 2 acres to the land less poor. He also stated that the Divisional
Forest Officer wrote a letter dated 17.11.2006 to the wildlife warden,
Srivilliputhur, endorsing the points raised by the petitioner. He stated that
he could not be held responsible for the loss caused by the revenue officials
due to their acquiring of the lands by ploughing the area and destroying the
plants. He also pointed out the letter written by the Divisional Forest Officer
dated 21.12.2006 to the District Collector that the plants were destroyed in 24
Hectares by the revenue officials.

3.However, the 2nd respondent passed the impugned order dated 31.10.2007
holding that the petitioner is responsible for the loss of 10680 seedlings to
the value of Rs.2,28,616/-. The 2nd respondent directed him to pay the same in
instalments.

4.The petitioner filed an appeal to the 1st respondent. The appeal was
rejected by the 1st respondent in the impugned order dated 11.04.2008. The
petitioner has filed the present writ petition to quash the aforesaid orders
dated 31.10.2007 and 10.09.2008 passed by the 2nd respondent and 1st respondent
respectively.

5.Heard the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner and the learned
Government Advocate (criminal side) appearing for the respondents.

6.I have considered the submissions made on either side.

7.The charge memo dated 27.08.2007 has contained 7 charges. However the
crux of the charge is that the petitioner is responsible for the loss of 10680
seedlings, that was planted in the Tiruchuzhi Forest Range and the value of the
same was at Rs.2,28,616/-.

8.According to the petitioner, he could not be held responsible for the
loss of 10680 seedlings as the same was destroyed by the revenue officials. It
is not in dispute that the revenue officials destroyed the seedlings. The
petitioner stated that he brought to the notice of the Divisional Forest Officer
and the Conservator of Forests immediately after the seedlings were destroyed by
the revenue officials. The District Forest Officer had written a letter to the
higher officials about the same and those letters are enclosed in the typed set
of papers. In the letter dated 17.11.2006, the Divisional Forest Officer
informed the wildlife Warden, Srivilliputhur that the revenue officials
destroyed the plants for the purpose of distribution to the land less poor under
the Government Scheme of providing 2 acres to the land less poor. He pointed
out that there was no boundary stones and there was no demarcation of reserve
forest. The Divisional Forest Officer also wrote a letter on 21.12.2006 to the
District Collector. On such intervention, further damage to the plants were
stopped. The audit party conducted audit during December 2006, after the
revenue officials destroyed the plants. It is also admitted that the land was
identified by his predecessor for planting the seedlings. However the
authorities found that the petitioner is responsible for the loss of 10680
seedlings and has sought to recover Rs.2,28,616/.

9.In my view, the reasoning of the respondents holding the petitioners as
responsible for the loss of 10680 seedlings is totally perverse and he could not
be held responsible for the destruction made by the revenue officials.

10.The appellate authority states that there was no evidence that the
Divisional Forest Officer inspected the project many times. On the other hand,
the Divisional Forest Officer himself wrote letters at 17.11.2006 and
21.12.2006, in support of the petitioner.

11.In the said circumstances, the impugned orders are liable to be
quashed. Accordingly, the same are quashed. The writ petition is allowed. No
costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.

12.The petitioner has stated that certain recoveries were made pursuant
to the impugned orders. Since the impugned orders are quashed, the respondents
are directed to repay the amount which was recovered from the petitioner.

arul

To

1.The Principal Chief Conservator
of Forest,
Panagal Maligai,
Saidapet,
Chennai – 15.

2.The Conservator of Forests,
Virudhunagar Division,
Virudhunagar.

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