Kerala High Court: The Bench of A. Muhamed Mustaque, J. allowed a civil writ petition granting a private company the right to fell trees on a disputed piece of land, subject to the fact that no royal trees covered within the grant of land are cut by the said company.

Petitioner, a private limited company, purchased 206.51 acres of land in Thenmala village from Harrisons Malayalam Limited, Cochin. Petitioner wanted to cut rubber trees of 25 to 30 years planted in the year 1974. Petitioner entered into an agreement with a third party and cut the trees pursuant to which he received prohibitory orders from Tahsildar wherein it was stated that there Harrisons Malayalam Ltd. had no ownership of the subject land. Further, the petitioner company was informed that the State had initiated eviction proceedings against Harrisons Malayalam Limited under the Kerala Land Conservancy Act, 1957.

Tahsildar (Land Revenue) also filed a counter affidavit stating that the original grant of land was based on Travancore Waste Land Rules, and the grantee cannot fell royal trees within the grant. As such, the petitioner was required to have sanction from the forest department of the government.

In view of the aforesaid, the Court noted that the grantee had liberty to cut trees other than the royal trees. Admittedly, rubber trees had the age of 25-30 years and thus it could not be disputed that those trees had been planted by the petitioner. The only dispute that was regarding ownership of land and the trees planted. However, in the guise of the felling of rubber trees, petitioner could not fell and remove other trees from the land. Thus, the Tahsildar was directed to identify the rubber trees so that the petitioner could cut and remove those trees.

The petition was disposed of in the above terms.[Riya Resorts and Properties Private Ltd. v. State of Kerala, 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 994, Order dated 28-03-2019]

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