Joy Kaitharath alleges that the Forest department is carrying out a vendetta against him for intervening in an ‘official misconduct’ case against department officials.

Kerala activist Joy Kaitharath in a white striped shirt smiling directly at the cameraActivist Joy Kaitharath
news Corruption Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 17:25

Noted anti-corruption and RTI activist Joy Kaitharath is allegedly facing hindrance in getting a gun license for his personal protection, despite the risk he faces while fighting various corruption cases in which ‘influential’ persons are the accused. The Kerala Forest department has allegedly been creating hurdles despite the Thrissur rural police recommending that Joy be given the license even as early as 2017. Joy alleges that the Forest department is carrying out a vendetta against him for intervening in a case with regard to the ‘official misconduct’ of department officials which was investigated by the Crime Branch.

Joy has been a petitioner in a number of corruption cases, including cases involving Malabar Cements, the Pattoor land case and the financial misappropriation of jewellery store owner Boby Chemmanur. In 2013, the then Chief Information Commissioner, Siby Mathews, had instructed that Joy be given police protection. However, the RTI activist refused on the grounds that it would restrict his movements and instead applied for a gun license. In the meantime, he has faced attacks from certain goonda elements on a few occasions as a result of his crusade against corruption.

As per norms, to get a gun license, favourable reports from the police, forest and revenue departments are needed. The police and the revenue authorities have already given favourable reports to provide a gun license for Joy, however the adverse stand of the Forest department is standing in the way of a gun license for Joy. Joy alleges that this stand is due to the fact that he had exposed corruption in the department.

The Forest department submitted a report to the Chief Wildlife Warden that Joy’s residence is only 1 km from the Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary. However, the Thrissur District Collector had recently written to the Chalakudy DFO that the findings of the Forest department are erroneous and in fact the air distance from Joy’s residence to the sanctuary is more than 8 km, whereas the ground distance is 22 km. According to Forest department norms, if the ground distance is less than 10 km from any wildlife sanctuary, licence for big guns should not be granted. However, here the ground distance is 22 km and the weapon requested by Joy is only a revolver.

In a petition to the Thrissur district Collector, Joy said: “The Forest Range Officer at Vellikulangara in his report after conducting a personal inquiry submitted that the applicant can be provided with the gun license. The letter sent by the DFO to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests is against facts. This is instigated as a result of the interventions made by me in connection with the corruption that happened at the Pattikkad forest range in Thrissur, and the mysterious death of Ezholikal Byju who was taken into custody by forest officials.”

Joy’s intervention against the Forest department is related to the alleged teak wood smuggling at the Pattikkad forest range in Thrissur and the suspicious death of Byju, an accused who was in the custody of forest officials.

“On the basis of our petition, the Home department had entrusted the Crime Branch to investigate the case and it has been found that certain officials led by the Pattikkad Forest Range Officer are the culprits in the case and the government is in the process of taking action against the officials,” Joy alleges.

Kerala DGP Lokanath Behera wrote to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests on August 13, 2019 to take necessary action against the forest department officials who were found guilty. However, Joy says that no action has been taken against the officials so far, even after the order from the state police chief.

Joy alleges that there have been attempts to report Byju’s death as a suicide to help those who are involved in the corruption that took place in the Forest department.

Abhish K Bose is a journalist based in Kerala.

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