At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE N. NAGARESH
For the Petitioners: Peeyus A. Kottam, Jomon J. Maliekal, R. Ajmal Ahmed, Arjun S. Benedict, P.P. Joseph, Advocates. For the Respondents: P.S. Appu, G.P.
1. Petitioners 1 and 2, who are owners of landed property in Keezhanthur Village of Devikulam Taluk, seek to quash Ext.P4 and to direct the 5th respondent-Village Officer to provide required permission to cut and remove the Eucalyptus/grantees from the property owned by the petitioners.
2. The petitioners state that the 1st petitioner holds 1 Hectare, 21.41 Ares of property in Re-survey No.4/1-5 in Block No.50 of Keezhanthur Village. The 2nd petitioner possesses 1 Hectare 49 Ares of property in Re-survey No.4/1-4 in Re-survey Block No.50 of Keezhanthur Village. The petitioners state that the petitioners' property as well as other adjacent properties are cultivated with Eucalyptus/grantees. On the basis of permission granted by the Village Officer, the Eucalyptus/grantees in the neighbouring property has been cut and removed.
3. However, when the petitioners submitted applications requesting permission to cut and remove trees from the petitioners' property, the 5th respondent issued Ext.P4 communication informing that the property of the petitioners and government land are lying together and only after surveying the property, permission for cutting and removing of Eucalyptus/grantees from the petitioners' property can be considered.
4. The petitioners state that the allegation of the Village Officer that the properties are lying contiguously with government land is absolutely incorrect. Re-survey in this area of Keezhanthur Village has already been completed and all the private properties and government land are duly surveyed and demarcated. The petitioners state that by Ext.P6 Circular dated 18.03.2019, the District Collector has ordered that the Village Officer shall permit the Agriculturists to cut and remove Acacia, Eucalyptus, grantees from the patta land. In spite of Ext.P6, requisite permission is being denied to the petitioners.
5. The Government Pleader filed a Statement on behalf of the 5th respondent. The 5th respondent stated that on receipt of the application from the petitioners, enquires were made and it was found that the petitioners' property comprising more than 15 Acres is lying contiguous with the revenue land in the interiors of Idukki District. It is difficult to approach the land situated in a high terrain, and without the assistance of Taluk Surveyor, the land cannot be identified.
6. The 5th respondent further stated that there is no specific boundary or demarcation dividing the property of the petitioner from the puramboke land. Land tax was accepted from the petitioner only pursuant to the orders of this Court in W.P.(C) No.2883/2015. The requisite permission can be granted only after a proper survey is conducted by the Taluk Surveyor.
7. I have heard the learned counsel for the petitioners and the learned Special Government Pleader (Forests) representing the respondents.
8. The fact that the petitioners own considerable extent of property in Keezhanthur Village of Devikulam Taluk, is admitted. The petitioners have submitted applications for cutting and removing Eucalyptus/grantees. The permission is denied on the ground that the petitioners' land is adjoining puramboke land and the boundary is not clearly demarcated.
9. This Court finds that the reason advanced by the 5th respondent for not considering the applications submitted by the petitioners is highly arbitrary and unsustainable. As long as the ownership of the petitioners over their land is not disputed, the petitioners cannot be denied due permission for cutting and removal of trees. Such denial would amount to violation of the constitutional right guaranteed to the petitioners under Article 300A. If the respondents have any doubt regarding the boundary of the property of the petitioners, it is open to them to conduct appropriate survey and demarcate land. That cannot be a reason
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to deny permission to the petitioners. In the circumstances, the writ petition is allowed. The respondents are directed to consider the application submitted by the petitioners for cutting and removing Eucalyptus/grantees, within a period of two months. It is made clear that the respondents will be at liberty to survey and demarcate government land, if any, adjoining the petitioners' property within the aforesaid period.