The travails of Malayalam superstar Mohanlal can be traced to a pair of tusks
Which is the best place to keep seized property? Kerala’s forest department has an answer—with the same person from whom the property was seized. In this case, Malayalam film actor Mohanlal, who has been dealing with a rather peculiar problem after two pairs of elephant tusks were found during an Income Tax Department raid on his home last year.
A forest department enquiry revealed that a friend had gifted the tusks to Mohanlal. The certificate of ownership had, however, not been changed. A case was registered, but the tusks remained in Mohanlal’s possession.
An activist group, the All Kerala Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Protection Council (ACHRPC), challenged this in court. The latter, however, dismissed the petition citing a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code that enables the investigating officer to give custody of property, if it is practically difficult to move, to ‘any person executing a bond’. Obviously, this could hardly apply to tusks, and so the ACHRPC has filed an appeal in the High Court, which will be heard next week.
The ACHRPC claims that the tusks staying with Mohanlal risks the possible tampering of evidence. “The rule of law is applicable to everyone. The rich and influential are not exempt,” says ACHRPC President Isaac Verghese.
High Court lawyer Sangeetha Lakshamana, though, sees no reason to believe that evidence will be tampered with. “Technically, the property does not belong to Mohanlal, even if it is in his house. In fact, he has a greater responsibility to keep the property as it is. Any tampering of evidence will drag him into more trouble,” she says.
Meanwhile, the state’s Forest Minister, KB Ganesh Kumar, a former actor, sent a request letter to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to ‘give one more opportunity to the public under a 2003 notification to declare illegal possessions of wild stock and trophies’. The cut-off time for declaration when this notification was passed had been 180 days. Kumar denied that he was revisiting this notification after eight years for Mohanlal’s benefit. In any case, the Centre dismissed the request.▪