Both Lorry & Rosewood Logs Have Already Been Sold By State- SC Remits Matter Related To Illicit Transport Of Forest Produce Back To High Court
The Supreme Court has remitted a matter related to the illicit transport of forest produce back to the High Court for fresh consideration.
The Court stressed that the State had lapsed in its duty to apprise the High Court of the true and up-to-date facts at the time of the final hearing of the matter. The lorry and the illicit rosewood logs, which the Wildlife Warden confiscated, were sold by the State whilst the High Court proceedings were ongoing. Hence they could not be returned.
The bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed, “Considering the aforesaid development which had taken place during the pendency of the matter before the High Court and was not brought to the notice of the High Court at that stage in terms of which the relief as was granted by the High Court could not possibly be granted. None of the two things namely, either the rosewood logs or the lorry was existing, as these had already been disposed off, before the order was passed by the High Court. It is a lapse on the part of the State to apprise the High Court of the true and up-to-date facts at the time of final hearing of the matter”.
Senior Advocate K.N. Balgopal with Advocate C. K. Sasi appeared for the Appellant and Advocate K. Rajeev appeared for the Respondent.
The Forest Department had seized a lorry carrying rosewood logs, which were found to be government property. The Wildlife Warden confiscated the vehicle and the illicit rosewood logs and filed an appeal before the District Court, which was dismissed. An Appeal was then filed before the High Court wherein the Court had allowed the revision petition filed by the Respondent and directed to release rosewood logs and the lorry to the Respondent, leaving it open to the Appellants to take any other appropriate action in respect of the property seized, as permissible in law. A Civil Appeal was filed before the Apex Court challenging the order of the High Court.
The Respondents contended that the Appellant failed to prove that the logs were the State property and sold the rosewood logs and the vehicle whilst the High Court proceedings were ongoing without giving the owners due notice.
The Court remitted the matter back to the High Court for examination afresh. The Court held that in case the Respondent’s arguments are accepted they would be entitled to receive the amount collected by the State on the sale of rosewood logs and the lorry. The Court instructed the High Court to consider whether it is appropriate to award interest on the amount collected on the sale of the lorry and rosewood logs.
“Considering the aforesaid changed situation which has been placed before this Court during the course of arguments, the matter needs to be remitted back to the High Court for examination afresh. Ordered accordingly. In case the arguments raised by the respondents are accepted, they will be entitled to receive the amount collected by the State on the sale of rosewood logs and the lorry”, the Bench observed.
Accordingly, the Court disposed of the matter and directed the High Court to take up the matter expeditiously.
Cause title: Assistant Wild Life Warden & Anr. v K. K. Moideen & Anr. (2023 INSC 696)