Sone Lal Murmu is just five years old but already a criminal in the eyes of forest officials here.
He is accused of destroying plants in the Purnanagar forestation area, which was being developed by the forest department in 2001-2002, and a case against him is pending in court.
A non-bailable arrest warrant is also out against the boy.
Ironically, Sone Lal was just over 14 months old when the first information report (FIR) was filed against him, in September 2002.
On Monday, Sone Lal, along with his father Gushaw Kishku, appeared before the court of Judicial Magistrate A.K. Pandey in connection with the case.
They applied for bail and filed a discharge petition. The court has fixed another date to discharge the case.
According to forest officials, on September 18, 2002, two forest guards reported the case to the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), claiming that Sone Lal and three others — Lalji Murmu, Sitaram Murmu and Jitu Manjhi, all of them minors — had destroyed over 541 plants by bringing their domesticated animals to the forest area for grazing.
The guards complained that when they tried to arrest them, the four accused managed to escape along with their animals.
The guards also requested the DFO to impose a fine of Rs 24,345 on the accused for destroying the plants. The DFO, without verifying the ages of the accused mentioned by the forest guards, ordered the institution of criminal cases against the four.
Till recently, Sone Lal and his father were not aware of the case. It was only when the police reached the boy’s home in Matrukha village to arrest him that his father came to know about the case.