(Prayer: This Criminal petition is filed U/S 439 Of Cr.P.C., praying to enlarge the petitioner on regular Bail in Dharwad Forest P.S. Crime No.1/2021-22 registered for the offences punishable under Sections 84, 86, 87, 24c, 24e, 71a, 62 of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 and U/Rule 144, 165 of Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and U/Sec.379, 414, 423 of IPC, pending on the file of II Addl. Civil Judge and II JMFC, Dharwad.
This Criminal Petition is filed U/S 439 of Cr.P.C., praying to release the petitioner / accused on Bail in Forest Crime No.1/2021-22, filed by range Forest Officer, Dharwad Division, Dharwad, for the offences U/Sec.84, 86, 87, 24c, 24e, 71a, 62 of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 and U/Rule 144 and 165 of Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and U/Sec.379, 414, 423 of IPC, pending on the file of II Addl. Civil Judge and JMFC-II Court, Dharwad.
This Criminal Petition is filed U/S 439 of Cr.P.C., praying to allow this petition and enlarge petitioners (Accused No.2 And 3) on regular Bail in connection with Dharwad Range Forest Office Crime No.1/2021 for the offences punishable Under Section 84, 86, 87, 24c, 24e, 71a, 62 Of Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, Rule 144 And 165 Of Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and Sec.379, 414 and 423 of IPC, on file of Ii Additional Civil Judge and JMFC-II, Dharwad.)
1. Since all these petitions arise out of the same crime, they are heard together and common order is has been passed.
2. The petitioners have filed these petitions under Section 439 of Cr.P.C., for enlarging them on bail in Dharwad Forest Crime No.1/2021-22 registered for the offences punishable under Sections 84, 86, 87, 24C, 24E, 71A and 62 of the Karnataka Forest Act and Rules made thereunder as well as under Section 379, 414 and 423 of IPC pending on the file of the II Additional Civil Judge and JMFC-II Court, Dharwad.
3. The factual matrix leading to the case are that on 16.06.2020, the Range Forest Officer, Dharwad has received a credible information regarding illegal transportation of sandalwood in Maruti Suzuki Alto car and therefore, he registered the First Information Report and along with his staff members came to outskirts of Nuggikeri village and there they found that the accused No.1 to 3 were illegally transporting 218 kg of sandalwood logs in the car bearing registration No.GA-09/A-4054. The same was seized along with three mobiles and 218 kg of sandalwood billets were concealed in four bags and they were all seized by drawing a mahazar. On enquiry, accused No.1 has reported that he is also going to get 30 kg of sandalwood billets at Shiggavi from accused No.7 and then as per the instructions of the investigating officer, accused No.1 called accused No.7 and there he came on his motorbike bearing registration No.KA-27/EQ-3733 near Garuda Hotel on National Highway near Shiggavi and while he was handing over 30 kg of sandalwood, he was apprehended and a mahazar was also drawn. Hence, it is alleged that accused Nos.1 to 3 and 7 were apprehended at the spots with property and were taken to judicial custody. They were produced before the learned Magistrate and were remanded to judicial custody.
4. Later, accused Nos.1 and 7 have moved regular bail petition before the Sessions Judge in Criminal Misc. Nos.530/2021 and 532/2021 and the learned Sessions Judge by his order dated 28.06.2021 rejected the bail petitions. Accused Nos.2 and 3 moved regular bail petition before the Sessions Judge in Criminal Misc. No.535/2021 and the learned Sessions Judge by his order dated 01.07.2021 has rejected the bail petition.
5. Learned counsel appearing for petitioners submitted that there is non-compliance of provisions of Section 62 and 71 of the Karnataka Forest Act and they would further submit that there was no involvement of these petitioners and no individual overt act is alleged against the petitioners and they are ready and willing to abide by all the conditions imposed by this Court. They would further submit that the offences alleged against these petitioners are not exclusively punishable with death or life imprisonment and since the seizure is already completed, the presence of the petitioners is no more required before the investigation agency. They would also submit that no documents are forthcoming to show that the mandatory compliance of provisions of the Karnataka Forest Act have been followed at the time of seizure. Hence, they would seek for enlarging the petitioners on a regular bail.
6. Per contra, learned High Court Government Pleader has seriously objected the bail petitions asserting that about 248 kg of sandalwood was seized from the custody of the petitioners and petitioners have not shown any cogent grounds, and the forest officials, after following all the procedure prescribed under the Act, have arrested these petitioners after seizure by drawing a seizure mahazar. The petitioners are involved in similar offences and they are habitual offenders. Hence, he would seek for rejection of the bail petitions.
7. Having heard the arguments and perusing the records it is evident that on the basis of First Information Report, the forest officials apprehended accused Nos.1 to 3 in the outskirts of Nuggikeri village and 218 kg of sandalwood was seized when they were making attempt to transport the same in Maruti Alto car bearing registration No.GA-09/A-4054. It is also alleged that on interrogation, accused No.1 disclosed that accused No.7 is also supposed to handover 30 kg of sandalwood and as per his instructions, they went to Shiggavi and there near Garuda Hotel, accused No.1 secured accused No.7, who came on his motorbike bearing registration No.KA-27/EQ-3733 Bajaj Pulsar with a bag wherein 30 kg of sandalwood was found. It is alleged that from accused Nos.1 to 3 and 7, total 248 kg sandalwood has been seized.
8. Section 104-D of the Karnataka Forest Act cast a reverse burden on accused for getting enlarge them on bail. Section 104-D of the Karnataka Forest Act states as under:
"104-D. Special provision regarding bail.-- Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (Central Act 2 of 1974) no person accused of a forest offence, punishable under sections 86 or 87 or 104-A or in respect of ivory, shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond unless,--
(a) the prosecution has been given an opportunity to oppose the application for such release; and
(b) where the prosecution opposes the application, the Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is not guilty of such offence."
9. Hence, the petitioners are required to prove that there is no prima-facie case to believe their involvement in the offence. Except formal denial, no such evidence is forthcoming. The learned counsel for petitioners have invited Court towards the provisions of Section 62 and 71A of the Karnataka Forest Act and it is submitted that Section 62 and 71A of the Karnataka Forest Act were not followed at the time of seizure of the alleged sandalwood. Admittedly, under Section 84 of the Karnataka Forest Act, the sandalwood is a State property unless contrary is proved. Though it is argued that the provisions of Section 62 of the Karnataka Forest Act are not followed, at this juncture, no material evidence is placed by the learned counsel for the petitioners in the form of the mahazar to show that there is any violation of
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provisions of Section 62 of the Karnataka Forest Act. Under these circumstances, the said arguments hold no water. The matter is still at the stage of investigation and huge quantity of sandalwood i.e. 248 kg is recovered from the custody of the petitioners. Section 104-D of the Karnataka Forest Act bars granting bail unless the reverse onus is established. Under these circumstances, there is no material placed at this stage to prove that petitioners are innocent and are not at all involved in the alleged offence. Hence, the petitions being devoid of merits are deserved to be rejected. Hence, I proceed to pass the following: ORDER The above petitions are dismissed. The original order shall be kept in Crl.P.No.101320/2021 and copies thereof shall be placed in Crl.P.Nos.101330/2021 and 101335/2021.