Roar for Tigers

Over decade later, cops have no clue of forest act amendments

Over decade later, cops have no clue of forest act amendments

Oct 28, 2014

PILIBHIT: Over a decade since amendments were made to sections of the Indian Forest Act making it easier for policemen to act to prevent crimes against forests and wildlife, it is as if no one has told the cops. District forest officer (DFO) of Pilibhit Kailash Prakash and legal adviser to the forest department DP Singh told TOI that the Indian Forest Act had been amended on April 16, 2001. The amendments to Sections 52 and 66 makes it imperative for policemen to act to prevent crimes. If they fail to prevent such crimes against forests or wildlife, they could be imprisoned for a term of two years and asked to cough up a fine. Despite the amendment, however, policemen have failed to act to prevent crimes against wildlife. Additional superintendent of police Udai Shankar Singh said he was not aware of the provisions or the amendments to the forest act, and explained that the police forces faced an acute shortage of staff. In comparison to the total sanctioned posts, he said, the force in Pilibhit district alone was short by 40%, he said, attempting to explain why additional responsibilities could not be borne. There are 1,304 staff on the rolls of the police department in the district. There are 14 police station circles, and three tehsil headquarters in Pilibhit; there are seven block headquarters and 1,454 villages. Ensuring the security of the more than 20 lakh people in the district, and maintaining law and order is arduous, given that 1,304 cops must cover over 1,400 villages, ASP Singh said. It’s not easy for one cop to be responsible for 1,500 citizens, he said, adding that there was also an excessive amount of paper work that went into policing functions. The DFO explained that under the amended law, seized forest produce should be handed to his office. Sub-section D of Section 52 of the law stipulates that no court of law, tribunal or other authority, except the forest department, could take cognizance in such a matter.
Prior to this, in a case of any seizure of illegally excavated forest produce, the police were authorized to take up the matter directly with a judicial court. DFO Kailash Prakash, however, said nothing was being done to ensure compliance with the amended Section 52, and no seized forest produce had ever been handed to him. He said that in March 2013, the Puranpur Kotwali police had seized a truck with red sandal worth crores of rupees. Police did nothing to release the seized material to the forest department despite several requests, he said. Asked of the matter, superintendent of police Sonia Singh admitted she was ignorant of the law. When TOI probed the matter of the truck laden with red sanders, she explained that tyres of that truck had been stolen by head constable Ram Prakash Yadav of Puranpur Kotwali. The constable was sent to jail, and since the truck had no wheels, there was no way to hand it over to the DFO. Police, however, had failed even to process the paperwork in the matter. The SP had no answer to why even the papers could not be processed.
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