Eminent environmentalist Avdhash Kaushal acquitted from a 1998 case
Noted Environmentalist and Padma Shri Avdhash Kaushal was released from a 20- year old case filed against him by the Forest department
Noted environmentalist Padma Shri recipient, Avdhash Kaushal, founder of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), a non-government organization, who had been engaged in fighting for the rights of the Muslim nomad Gujjars of Rajaji national park and other deprived communities, has been acquitted by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Haridwar in a two-decade old case filed against him by forest department for allegedly inciting Gujjars.
The forest department had slapped Avdhash Kaushal with a case under Wild Life Protection Act, Sections 27, 29 51, 52, for holding a meeting of Gujjar nomads in 1998.
In the order passed on November 15, 2018, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Haridwar drew attention towards the contribution of the renowned environmentalist Mr. Avdhash Kaushal, in the implementation of the Environment Protection Act 1986 in India. The judgement also noted, that the case was lodged by the forest department, five months after the event took place and since then forest department failed to produce any independent witnesses.
According to the judgment, it was found that the forest Department filed the case with malicious intention due to their resentment against Avdhash Kaushal, who was fighting against the ill-treatment of the nomad Gujjars.
As per the case, Forest Department had alleged that more than 200 Van Gujjars, living within and outside Rajaji National Park, attended the meeting that was said to be held in the year 1998 in which Kaushal allegedly convinced the Gujjars that no injustice would be done against the Gujjars by anyone. But in the FIR, only Avdhash Kaushals name of was mentioned as the accused.
Accused Kaushal took up the case with NHRC, which passed the order in favour of the Van Gujjars.
Further Kaushal also took up the case with the Principal Secretary, Forest, complaining of harassment. The then Principal Secretary Mr. George Joseph wrote to the Forest Department ‘to not harass the Gujjars till all their rights have been settled.’ According to the judgment, it was found that the forest Department filed the case with malicious intention due to their resentment against Avdhash Kaushal, who was fighting against the ill-treatment of the nomad Gujjars.
Interestingly, the Forest Department themselves had stated that “the meeting was arranged outside the Forest Area and after the meeting the Van Gujjars residing in Rajaji National Park area went back to the forest, while Mr. Kaushal also tried to go with them.” But all the witnesses produced by the forest department said that “even though Kaushal tried to enter the forest, but on being advised not to do so and he did not enter the park. Therefore, the question of destruction of the wildlife and Forest doesn’t arise”.
The prosecution witnesses were found contradicting each other and as the Forest Department failed to produce any solid evidence against the renowned social worker. Thus, Kaushal was acquitted from all the charges against him. The judgement also pointed out that Kaushal is a renowned social activist who has been praised by Supreme Court for his active participation in environment protection and has been awarded with many prestigious awards including the Padma Shri.
On being asked for a response, Padma Shri Avdhash Kaushal said, “In our courts there may be delay but there will always be justice.” He further added that he will always continue to help the poor and marginalized communities like Van Gujjars etc. He will continue to support them to regain their legal rights. Kaushal said “that this is not the only case Forest Department filed but there were more than 10 other false cases against RLEK and all which went in latter’s favour. “The forest department spent more than Rs. 30 lakhs in this particular case in last 20 years, which was public money,” he regretted.
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Published: 19 Nov 2018, 5:30 PM