INTERPRETATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF FOREST ACT, 1980 BY THE SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court has interpreted and enforced the provisions of Forest Conservation Act 1980 strictly in T.N.Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Union of India5 . The Court issued sweeping directives to enforce the FCA6 . All wood based industries were closed and an embargo was imposed on the exploitation of forest and forest product. The Court also created Central and State committees to enforce the directions it issued in this case. The court recognized that FCA was enacted with a view to check ecological imbalance caused by rapid deforestation. The court also defined the word forest used in the FCA.

The Court said the provisions of the act must apply to all the forests irrespective of the ownership or classification thereof. “The word forest must be understood according to its dictionary meaning. This description covers all statutory recognized forest, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purposes of s.2 (I). The word forest will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of ownership.”(Thakur 1997)

The Court further said any activity going on in any forest in any state of the country which is a non- forest activity is in isolation of the act and has to cease immediately. As a result, all mining, quarrying activities were prohibited in the forest. Wood based industries such as saw mills were also in violation of the Act, it was held. A complete ban was enforced on the felling of trees in all forests, and felling and logging could be carried out only if they are in accordance with the working plans of the State Government only.

The Courts all over India have followed the Principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Godavarman7 cases8 . Shree Bhagawati Tea Estates v. Government of India9 the Supreme Court examined a number of issues with respect to the FCA. Firstly, the court looked at the Kerala Private Forests (vesting and Assignment) Act 1971. This act was part of the agrarian reform of the Kerala Government and it sought to acquire private forest lands for this purpose. This acquired land was then to be distributed amongst landless peasants. The petitioner challenged this act by saying that it violated the provisions of the FCA. It was contended that this acquisition for agricultural purpose would mean clearing of forests on such land, and this was not permissible without the approval of the central government. It was also suggested that the FCA prohibits the leasing of forest land to private and industries or individuals and therefore, the acquired land could not be distributed to the landless(Robledo et al. 2005).

The Supreme Court dismissed these contentions and stated that the FCA does not envisage a complete ban; only approval of the Central Government is required. In this case the Supreme Court while upholding the legality of the Kerala Private Forests act, reconciled with the need to conserve forests with the need to address the livelihood concerns of the poor and the marginalized. The Court had also confronted with the issues of mining activities in the forest areas. The court had clearly laid down prohibition of mining activities in the forest areas.10 The Supreme Court made it categorically clear that renewal of mining licence after FCA came into force can be made only on getting prior permission from the Central Government11.

The Supreme Court observed12 “the primary duty was to the community and that duty took precedence , in our opinion, in these cases. The obligation to the society must predominate over the obligation to the individuals.” The Court had firmly disallowed the non-forest activities and granting of lease for non forest activities in forests. Renewal of stone crushing lease without prior permission of the from the Central Government was considered a serious breach of duty in the case Dhirendra agrawal v. State of Bihar.13 The use of forest land for non forest purpose was clearly denied by the court in the case of State of Bihar v. Banshi Ram Modi.14 Similarly excavations of iron ore15 and tourism16 in forest were highly criticised by the Supreme Court(Ellefson 1992).

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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