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SAHIWAL: Around 1,500 of the 4,000 cases of forest wood theft have been solved in Vehari, Pakpattan and Sahiwal.

It is learnt that most of these cases have been solved during the last 13 months due to proactive follow-up in courts by the forest department. These cases had been pending with the lower judiciary of the three districts for the last six years.

The forest department can earn Rs21.129 million (through fines) after solving all the cases.

After the passage of the 18th amendment, the Punjab government amended The Forest Act 1927 in May 2010. The amended law enhanced fine penalty for wood theft besides one-year imprisonment along with a ban on setting up a wood factory near the forest land.

Under new law wood theft including tree cutting, burning, stripping or otherwise damaging those protected trees/plants is covered under Section 30 while Section 33 deals with “Offences relating to protected forest”.

DFO blames courts for backlog

Divisional Forest Officer Abdul Jabbar told Dawn that the department had settled disputes by imposing fine on the culprits and either lodging FIRs with respective police stations or sending cases to magistrates/civil judges for further proceedings.

The second-category external cases were handled through FIRs under 379/411 PPC while prosecution cases were taken up under Section 33 of the Forest Amended Act 2010.

Sources told Dawn that the DFO generated Rs1.88 million, Rs2.332 million, Rs1.78 million, Rs2.73 million and Rs2.26 million revenue during 2014-15, 2013-14, 2012-13, 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively.

“A total of 995 compoundable cases have been resolved internally during the last five years,” Tanveer Khan, Forest Range Officer, said.

Mr Jabbar said slow judicial process resulted in backlog of cases in the last many years. “The forest department can be far more efficient if theft cases are settled in courts in shortest period,” he said.

Documents say around 3,255 prosecution cases have been pending with the lower judiciary from 2011 to May 2015 in the three districts. Around 273 FIRs were lodged during this period.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2015

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