Madurai, Apr 4 (PTI) Trustee of Chennai Trekking Club Peter Van Geit, a Belgian national, who has been untraced since the forest fire mishap in Theni district last month which claimed 22 lives, today filed an anticipatory bail application in the Madras High Court bench here.

Van Geit, settled in India since 1998, has been named as the first accused in the FIR registered by police in Theni, some 75 km from here.

In his application, Van Geit claimed he was not the organiser of the trekking event in the Kurangani hills, and that when the FIR was initially registered no one was named as the accused.

He also submitted all those who had participated in the trekking event did so voluntarily and they were led by Prabhu and Arun from Chennai and claimed he was in no way connected to it.

The trekking was undertaken in the usual route, he said, adding that though an alert was issued by the Forest Survey of India, officials of the Forest department at Theni arrived late.

He further said the membership for the CTC was also free and voluntary and it did not receive any subscription.

The club was working on development of sports and doing social service as a voluntary organisation, Van Geit claimed.

He submitted that the club had mentioned in the application that trekking was risky and accident-prone.

Van Geit claimed he was included in the FIR based on the information from sources inimical to him.

The FIR was registered against him because he was a foreigner and did not have any roots in India, he said, adding that the objective was to get incriminating statements from him by resorting to torture.

The CTC trustee also said though he was innocent, cases were registered against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the CrPC.

He said he was willing to cooperate in the investigation and sought anticipatory bail.

Twenty-two persons of a 36-member team on a trekking expedition were killed in the forest fire in Kurangani hills in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district on March 10.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.