A notice from the Supreme Court to the Centre regarding a plea seeking protection for forest staff

The Supreme Court gave notice on Thursday to a plea requesting protection for forest staff increasingly facing hostile antisocial elements in discharging their duties and getting slapped with the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1998, when they act in self-defense.

Justice B R Gavai’s two-judge bench issued notice to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and the state of Telangana regarding a case filed by Senior Advocate A D N Rao, who is an amicus curiae in forest and wildlife law.

It’s about Forest Range Officer (FRO) Challamalla Srinivas, who died on November 22 after allegedly being assaulted by tribals over forest land in Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana.

As an example of how important the job of forest officials is, it said Forest Service takes part in plantations, compensatory afforestation, and wildlife protection.

As a whole, the Forest Department’s work reduces global warming, carbon sequestration, and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the plea said. Recently, forest staff/officials are increasingly being attacked by hostile anti-social elements and lawbreakers, who are committing forest crimes with impunity and brutally assaulted while doing their jobs….”

There have been recent instances where poachers and encroachers attacked the Forest Department staff and officers.

As the attack happens deep inside the forest, they’re outnumbered and can’t defend themselves or call for help. Whenever they act in self-defence, they get booked under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1998,” it said.

“Since the new law granted Forest Rights to the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who could prove occupancy in 2005 was passed, attacks on forest officers and forest staff have gone up.” “This is causing lawlessness in the forest,” it said.

In the application, the court asked for “urgent directions” from the court so that “the concerned authorities provide protection to the officials while they’re on duty” and prayed that the offenders and the concerned states would take strict action against them, along with the police force’s help in dealing with and preventing serious forest offenses that cause massive forest destruction.

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