The Kerala High Court has dismissed the plea of three forest officials from Idukki seeking pre-arrest bail in a case against them for allegedly falsely implicating a tribal man in a criminal case and assaulting him.
The court said that there was prima facie material to attract the offence of instituting a false case against a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the three officials.
It said that the offence was also made out against a fourth forest official, but since he belonged to a SC community he cannot be prosecuted for offences under the Act.
The order by Justice V G Arun came on an appeal moved by eight forest officials from Idukki against the dismissal of their antiticipatory bail by a special court dealing wioffences under the Act.
The appeal of the remaining five officials was disposed of with a direction to them to surrender before the investigating officer within two weeks from June 27, the date of the High Court order, for interrogation.
Justice Arun, in a slight relief, also directed that in the event of arrest of the five officials, they shall be released on bail on furnishing bonds of Rs 50,000 each with two solvent sureties for the like amount.
The officials were directed to cooperate with the probe in the case and not attempt to influence or intimidate the complainant or other witnesses in the case.
In its order, the High Court also ordered that the role of the Assistant Wildlife Warden, Idukki, in the matter be also investigated as he had a part in the registration of the crime and the initial formalities against the complainant.
While the High Court found there was prime facie material to show a false case was lodged against the complainant by four of the appellant officials, the same cannot be said in respect of the remaining four as they were only roped in for carrying out their formal duties after the crime was registered.
The judge also said that in the absence of any proof that the complainant was assaulted by the officials, that offence would not be attracted.
The complainant, a tribal, was arrested in September last year for allegedly possessing around two kg of wild animal meat that was recovered from his autorickshaw.
The tribal man had claimed that his autorickshaw was inspected at two check points, when he had travelled through the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary to Valakode to board a bus from there to Erattupetta to drop off a friend, but nothing was found in his vehicle.
While on the bus, he was called by the forest officials to come back and on reaching the Vanmavu forest check post in Idukki, he was forcibly taken from his autorickshaw to a nearby forest office, assaulted and abused by calling his caste name, the complainant had alleged.
The complainant had also told the High Court that later it was found that the meat seized from his vehicle was of cattle and not some wild animal.
The officials, in their plea, had claimed that the case was lodged against them due to the pressure from tribal and political leaders and the intention was to absolve the complainant from the criminal proceedings he was facing.
The prosecution had opposed the officials plea by pointing out the “dubious manner” in which the complainant was “trapped”.