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Supreme Court allows plea by environmentalists' body

Legal Correspondent

Plea to expunge High Court remarks in smuggling case

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed `One Earth One Life,' an organisaton of environmentalists, to implead itself in the special leave petitions (SLPs) filed by the former Kerala Forest Minister K.P. Viswanathan and the State seeking expunging of certain remarks made by the Kerala High Court while declining anticipatory bail in a smuggling case.

A Bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice A.K. Mathur allowed the impleadment after the applicant contended that there was enough evidence to show that Mr. Viswanathan had connived with the sandalwood mafia and he himself had admitted that he had ordered an inquiry.

The apex court in March issued notice to Musthafa, general manager, Walayar Rural Industries, and five others on the SLPs.

It had also issued notice to the State Government and Mr. Viswanathan on the application of `One earth One Life,' and on Friday, the appellants opposed the impleadment.

However, the Bench said it would hear the applicant also.

The High Court in its order passed on February 8 had observed that ordering of a Vigilance inquiry against the forest officials who conducted raids on a factory showed that the accused in the case had direct access to the (former) Minister Viswanathan and were capable of getting any order from the State Government for the asking.

The High Court had observed that "the averments in the bail petitions show that on a mere receipt of a telegram from the accused in the case addressed to the Minister for Forests, the Government took immediate steps by ordering a Vigilance inquiry against the forest officers who detected the offence. "

In his SLP, Mr. Viswanathan submitted that these remarks were not necessary for deciding the anticipatory bail of the accused and there was no material before the court warranting such admonitions.

Following such strictures, the State Assembly witnessed widespread protest by the Opposition demanding his resignation. Hence he sought expunging these remarks and the State supported this stand.

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