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Magsaysay awardee quits Corbett Park corruption probe

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Hemant Waje
Last updated on: November 09, 2021 15:58 IST
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Ramon Magsaysay award recipient Indian Forest Services officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi has withdrawn himself from probing the role of officials in illegal constructions in Uttarakhand's Corbett Tiger Reserve, citing contradictory statements of senior government functionaries over his appointment as the investigating officer.

In a letter to Head of Forest Force Rajiv Bhartari, he said though he had investigated "hundreds" of corruption cases, never did his "very appointment to probe a case evoke the kind of nervousness, fear, confusion and apprehension as in this case".

Bhartari had assigned Chaturvedi the responsibility of probing the illegal constructions in the reserve on November 2 after being authorised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to fix charges against officials involved and act against them.

"I have conducted probes into hundreds of corruption cases in my career, in which the biggest leaders of parties in power and senior bureaucrats were accused, earning the appreciation of institutions like the CBI, the CVC and parliamentary panels, but never did my very appointment to probe a case evoke the kind of nervousness, fear, confusion and apprehension as in this case," Chaturvedi said in his letter.

Expressing his inability to take up the probe in circumstances like these, the Indian Forest Services officer, advised authorities, with a touch of sarcasm, to first make up their mind about actually punishing the culprits in a case before asking him to probe it.

 

Chaturvedi has also enclosed with his letter a newspaper report carrying reactions of Chief Wildlife Warden J S Suhag, Additional Principal Secretary (Forest) Anand Bardhan and Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat to his appointment suggesting that the move had not gone down well with them.

Chaturvedi, a chief conservator of forest (research) based in Haldwani, has a reputation of being an honest official.

According to the newspaper report, Suhag, while reacting to Bhartari appointing Chaturvedi as the investigating officer, said that the investigation of the case comes under his jurisdiction and he had already assigned the responsibility to Additional Chief Wildlife Warden BK Gangte.

However, Gangte has said that he has not received any such order.

The report also quotes Forest Minister Rawat as saying that since the case pertains to a wildlife zone, the chief wildilfe warden alone is authorised to have it investigated.

Sources said Chaturvedi had withdrawn himself from the probe as the chief wildlife warden and the forest minister had questioned the legality of his appointment by Head of Forest Force Bhartari.

According to the Wildlife Protection Act, all powers regarding any violation of rules in a wildlife zone are vested in the chief wildlife warden.

Even if Chaturvedi had gone ahead with the probe it would not have been legally tenable, the sources said.

The NTCA had conducted a field visit of the Pakhro and Morghatti zones of Kalagarh forest division which falls in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve and found that illegal construction of buildings, bridges and water bodies had been carried out there without the prior sanction of authorities.

It had recommended a vigilance probe and action against the officials involved.

Soon after Chaturvedi was assigned the responsibility of the probe, the Corbett administration began demolishing the illegally erected structures in the Kalagarh Forest Division, including the Pakhro and the Morghatti forest zones, on November 6.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Hemant Waje© Copyright 2022 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
 
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