Red Sanders smuggling is against public order
Red Sanders smuggling is against public order, Earlier in this column, I spoke about the interpretation given to the law relating to preventive detention and its applicability to red sander smugglers.
Earlier in this column, I spoke about the interpretation given to the law relating to preventive detention and its applicability to red sander smugglers. While the judge examined the entire issue in detail from the stance of the prayer: seeking a writ of certiorari where the court is largely concerned with the legality of the order under judicial review, it would always remain a matter of conjecture as to whether the outcome would be the same if the judge was dealing with a writ of habeas corpus. I still believe that the approach of the court would have been far more liber qua the citizen while dealing with a writ of habeas corpus.
The judgement, however, has yet another important aspect worth noticing. The judge deals at length with issues of environment. Till a few years ago, including the years of the making of Justice Nooty Ram Mohan Rao as the awesome lawyer he was and the promise filled judge he came to be for environment issues who was seen as an elitist and fashionable. Not any longer. The dangerous activities of illegal felling of trees in the reserve forest and its disastrous effect on the environment are thus central to the approach of the judge in dealing with the writ plea. Dealing with the question that where the ordinary course of law is adequate to deal with the offending activities alleged against the detenue, the extraordinary provision of preventive detention should not be invoked against the detenue, the judge gave it the summary rejection. He backed it up with the right amount of reason on the question of nature and the need to sensitise the issue from a global perceptive.
Justice Nooty Ram Mohan Rao reasoned, “The distinction between the areas of ‘public order’ and ‘law and order’ must be constantly borne in mind. The act complained against the detenue itself, may not be the determining factor about its gravity. But, it is the potentiality of the act which can disturb the even tempo of the life of the community that makes it prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. When red sanders trees are felled indiscriminately and illegally by way of an organised activity in a reserve forest, the chances of the men getting caught is too remote. The vigilance over the forest cover particularly during the night is a greatly restricted activity. Such vigilance is not organised by the State for a variety of reasons including for availability of adequate manpower and equipment and scarce financial resources at its disposal and more importantly, to sub-serve the larger interests of not disturbing the tranquillity of night life in reserve forests.”
Justifying the orders of detention is never a pleasant judicial duty and surely not for the man I know in the judge Justice Ram Mohan Rao who said, “Forests are the habitat of not only trees but various varieties of other creatures…the disturbance that can be caused by way of emission of light, sound or presence of men who can easily cause more harm to them, would greatly come in the way of all such creatures enjoying their natural activities undertaken at night times.”
The judge went on to spare a thought for the natural habit and habitat of the animals. “It is only from the circumstantial evidence gathered or captured subsequent to the commission of offence inferences are drawn about the occurrence of the forest offences. When red sanders logs in large quantities are detected and seized, they unerringly point out a finger to the felling of the red sander trees illegally. During the course of investigation only those who operate or abet such forest offences emerge.”
“If the red sander trees were to be felled illegally, for purposes of making a fast buck out of it, the disastrous consequences will have to be faced by the rest of the living organisms including the human beings who may have been relatively removed far away from the reserve forest. The delicate balance of the ecology when is disturbed, will have an impact upon the seasonal effects the mother-nature bountifully accords. I am therefore of the opinion that illegal felling of red sanders trees disturbs the even tempo of living of the human beings and thus the illegal activities concerning and connected to the illegal felling of the red sanders trees in reserve forests amounts to prejudicial activities of public order and it has to be necessarily dealt with by a firm hand,” the judge ruled.