The Hyderabad High Court has directed the Andhra Pradesh government to file counter affidavit on Tuesday, disclosing the names of successful bidders in a red sanders auction held in December 2016.
According to reports, the state was dealing with a PIL filed by a retired forest officer, D Basava Sankar Rao.
The New Indian Express quotes the PIL, which contends that A-Grade red sanders were sold at Rs 1,95,54,300 per ton in December 2014, while the December 2016 auction saw a rate of Rs 38,56,926 per ton.
B-Grade and C-Grade logs were also sold for lower prices, the petitioner alleged.
Meanwhile, the state argued that the names of bidders were kept â€˜secretâ€™ because the highest bidder was yet to be confirmed.
The TNIE report also added that the auction was being conducted by MSTC, which was a Central government corporation, that insisted on keeping the bidders secret until the sale was confirmed.
In the latest auction held in December 2016 and January 2017, the forest department had reportedly put up 2,800 tonnes of the wood for sale, for which it received bids worth Rs 344.85 crore.
Red sanders are indigenous to the Eastern Ghats in Andhra and grow mainly in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Chittoor and Kadapa districts in the Rayalaseema region.
The wood has a huge demand abroad, especially in China and Japan.
The Andhra government often seizes several tonnes of logs every year during combing operations by special forces in the forests.
The logs are auctioned later by the state.
There are three grades of logs based on the quality of the wood - Grade A. Grade B and Grade C.
The next hearing of the case will be in two weeks.