Officer didn't inform Govt on Merchistion land deal in time: CAT

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Kochi, Nov 6 (UNI) The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) today dismissed the petition of suspended Chief Conservator of Forests V Gopinathan, observing that the officer failed to inform the Kerala Government in time about the land dealings, regarding the Merchiston Estate in Ponmudi, Thiruvananthapuram.

The official filed a petition before the CAT, challenging the suspension order served on him on September 18 by the government, alleging that he had failed in his duty to apprise the government of the land deal and related matters.

The Bench, comprising Vice-Chairman Sathi Nair and Judicial member K B S Rajan, observed that there was 'total application of mind' on the part of the state government while taking a decision to suspend the officer.

The Bench observed that there was a comprehensive note prepared at the Secretary level against the petitioner.

The court said the petitioner held a responsible position and there was a lapse on his part in not informing the government regarding the land deal when he knew it in March itself.

The Kerala Government, in a statement on October 22, had informed the CAT that in exercise of the powers conferred under the Kerala Forests (Vesting and Management of Ecologicaly Fragile Lands) Act, 2003, the Government had appointed Mr Gopinathan as the 'custodian' of ecologicaly fragile lands (EFL).

The land deal relating to the Merchiston Estate, which was categorised as 'EFL', and related matters were not brought to the notice of the government by him, though under the Act, he was duty bound to apprise the government from time to time of all such information, it said.

The land deal came to light when the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) bought a part of the estate to set up the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. The government had later issued an eviction notice to ISRO, stating that the estate fell under the EFL category, which was illegally declassified.

UNI

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