A habeaus corpus plea moved for the release of a man detained under the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act and who had adverse orders against him in cases for smuggling Red Sanders Woods, recently prompted a Justice N Kirubakaran led Bench of the Madras High Court to pose questions on the steps taken by the Government to curb the menace.

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“Menace” of Red Sanders Woods Smuggling catches Madras HC’s attention; Court seeks details of cases registered and more
By
Meera Emmanuel
22nd Sep, 2020 at 9:29 AM
A habeaus corpus plea moved for the release of a man detained under the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act and who had adverse orders against him in cases for smuggling Red Sanders Woods, recently prompted a Justice N Kirubakaran led Bench of the Madras High Court to pose questions on the steps taken by the Government to curb the menace.

The Court noted,

“…red sander woods smuggling is taking away many lives in Tamil Nadu. The red sander woods smuggling has become menace and poor people have become victims. The marginalized people are lured into cutting and smuggling of red sander woods from neighbouring state viz., Andhrap Pradesh especially in Chithoor and in other neighbouring districts.”

The order goes on to note that it is evident from media reports that there is a mafia involved in the big racket, comprising of powerful political persons, the police, exporters and brokers from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

As a result, the poor and the marginalised suffer on account of being lured into carrying out the smuggling on the promise of big money, the Court said. In this regard, the order passed by a Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan comments,

“Poor and marginalized people and the people belonging to Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes who are living especially in Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Dharmapuri and Vellore Districts are targeted and lured into this illegal activity by promising them big money in return. Believing those sugar coated words, these poor people without knowing the risks are indulging in these illegal activity by travelling to the neighbouring State viz., Andhrapradesh where red sander woods are abundantly available and thereby, cutting and smuggling those red sander woods. However, money given to those poor people are said to be only peanuts compared to the money involved by selling those red sander woods.”
The Court also mused on whether the reason for this is due to the lack of opportunities for employment in the native districts of such persons, adding,

“If they are provided with proper employment and basic amenities, definitely, they would not go for this kind of illegal activity. Without knowing that red sander wood tree is a protected tree and without proper permission, it cannot be cut off, many people are lured into this illegal activity and they are shot down or they are arrested by the police.”

In view of these concerns, the Court has now impleaded the Director General of Police, Mylapore and the Additional Director General, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Chennai and posed the following queries for the respondent-authorities to answer:

How many persons have been killed in the smuggling of Red sander woods from the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh as well as in our State for the past ten years?

How many persons have been arrested so far in the process of red sander woods smuggling?

How many cases have been registered in the smuggling of red sander wood and what is the state of those cases?

Who are all the stake holders in the red sander woods smuggling?

Is it a fact that poor and marginalized people have been lured with the promise of big money if they cut and smuggle red sander woods by powerful lobby?

Is it a fact that cutting across political parties, many political personalities such as police, brokers and exporters are involved in red sander wood smuggling?

Other than poor people, who are only victims, how many other politically powerful persons such as police officials, exporters, brokers and business people have been arrested so far?

What is the quantity of the red sander woods seized for the past ten years?

What are all the effective steps taken by the Government to sensitize the poor people about the dangers of red sander wood smuggling who have been used as tool for this illegal activity?

What are all the steps taken by the Government to give adequate and alternative employment so that people will not be lured away by red sander wood smuggling and red sander wood mafia?

Whether State of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have constituted special basic schemes to abate this red sander wood smuggling?

How many cases have been registered in Andhra Pradesh for the offence of smuggling of red sander woods and what is the stage of those cases?

The habeas corpus plea before the Court was allowed with the Bench finding that the detention was illegal. However, the case was kept pending to examine the larger issue of Red Sanders Woods smuggling. The matter will be taken up next on September 28.

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