Forest officials exonerated in bribery case

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Apr 28: The inquiry into the bribery case against two Forest officials in North Kashmir where major damage was caused to the forests by the timber smugglers has exonerated them on the pretext that allegers didn’t come forward to record their statements.
Bilal Ahmad Gania, who had allegedly paid Rs 30, 000 as bribe to forest official told Excelsior that he recorded the statement before the inquiry team twice and is ready to record it any time anywhere.
Last year, the DFO Kamraj Forest Division ordered (Forest Order No. 29 of 2019-2020 dated 20-03-2020) inquiry into large scale damage caused to several forest compartments in Botingoo Block-II in North Kashmir by the timber smugglers.
He sought detailed report on the involvement of forest officials and leaking of information regarding forest operations to the timber smugglers. Watcher of the area, Nazir Ahmad Gania, was also placed under suspension by the DFO.
As the investigation was going on four audio clips went viral on social media in which forest officials were accused of bribery. In the clips one Bilal Ahmad Gania is accusing the officials of taking Rs 30, 000 as bribe.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Dr Mohit Gera, immediately ordered inquiry (No. PCCF/PS/2020/2199-2200 dated 14-05-2020) into the bribery allegations against the officials and sought factual report.
“The four audio clips regarding the forest staff Javed Iqbal, I/C Range Officer and Abdul Hamid Qazi talking about bribe taken from forest smugglers who have allegedly committed illicit damage in Kandi Range of Kamraj Forest Division have been forwarded to you on Whatsapp and the same are also attached with this mail”, reads the order addressed to Chief Conservator of Forests Kashmir division.
The Divisional Forest Officer Kamraj division, Zahid Mughal, told Excelsior that the case of bribery against the forest officials was not proven as those who recorded the audio clips didn’t come forward to record their statements.
“The case of bribery against the Forest officials was not proven and the report was submitted last year only. However, PCCF sought copy of the report two weeks ago and we submitted it. The person who had recorded the phone call and made allegations against the forest officials didn’t come forward to record his statement so the allegations were not proven”, he said.
Bilal Ahmad Gania who had recorded the audio clips and alleged that he paid Rs 30, 000 to Forest official as bribe told Excelsior that he recorded the statement before the inquiry team twice. “Four Forest officials visited village Dangerpora, Zaingair Sopore and recorded my statement in which I told them that I paid Rs 30, 000 to Forest officers as bribe”, he said.
“I along with Tauseef Ahmad were again called to Forest division office where we again recorded the statement. After that we didn’t hear about the inquiry report”, he said.
Gania said that they are ready to appear before any inquiry team for recording the statement at any time. “If the officials have exonerated them on the pretext that we didn’t record statement, we are ready even now”, he said.