Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Khushi Maheshwari
Forests are one of the most valuable natural resources. Because trees are an integral aspect of natural habitat, they are essential to the entire ecosystem. As a result, it should be our top priority to protect them and not disrupt the natural cycle. However, our natural forests are being taken down at an alarming rate. People have become so selfish that they have begun to clear the entire flora and fauna. As a result, the Central Government adopted the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 to halt the fast deforestation.
The Indian Forest Act of 1865 was the first legal document on this topic. During the colonial period, it was later replaced by the Indian Forest Act of 1927. When a legislation is passed, the aim is that it will address the societal issue that it was enacted to solve. When the Indian Forest Act of 1927 was established, the same hope was expressed, but it was limited to British interests alone.
The Act of 1927 was primarily concerned with timber. The Act of 1927 was broken down into 13 chapters and contained 86 sections. It provided the state the authority to control tribal people’s rights to use forests. The government was also given the authority to create restricted forests under this Act. Its goal was to manage forest products and charge taxes on timber and other forest products, which later became a source of government revenue. It was never intended to safeguard the country’s woods; rather, it was intended to govern the cutting of timber and other raw materials needed in industry.
The need to maintain forests grew more pressing after India’s independence, and the President of India enacted the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance, 1980. Section 5 of the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, which went into effect on October 25, 1980, revoked the ordinance. It was passed to protect the country’s woods and matters linked to them.
Constitutional mandate for forest conservation
When the Constitution of India was passed in 1950, the framers did not realize that there could be problems related to forest protection in the future. Subsequently, with the enactment of the Constitution Act (Forty Second Amendment) in 1976 and the addition of Article 48A to the Guiding Principles of National Policy and a part of Article 51A, this was achieved, as a member of the Obligations Basic of every Indian citizen.
Pursuant to Article 48A, the state has made laws to protect and enhance the environment to protect our forests.
Under Section 51A (g), every Indian citizen has the responsibility to protect and enhance the natural environment, including the forests of our country.
The forest trees not only give us with oxygen for breathing, but they also do a lot more. They also give us with useful items such as food and wood. Forests are an important aspect of our environment because they help to maintain the earth's ecosystem and water cycle.
The Act's goal is to protect our country's forest and sustain its ecology. This Act also aims to rejuvenate the woods in our country by planting trees and increasing forest growth.
To save the forest, its flora and animals, as well as other ecological components. To safeguard the woodlands, integrity, territory, and uniqueness.
To preserve forests and avoid deforestation, which will result in land erosion and consequent degradation.
To avoid the extinction of forest biodiversity.
To avoid the conversion of forests into agricultural or grazing grounds, or the construction of commercial or residential units.
This Act has the following features:
The State government and other authorities are no longer allowed to make decisions in some areas without first seeking authorization from the federal government.
The central government has complete authority to carry out the laws of this Act under this Act.
Infringement of this Act's provisions is also punishable under this Act.
An advisory committee may be created under this Act to provide advice to the Central government on problems relating to forest protection.
SECTIONS OF THE ACT
Section 1: Title and scope
Section 1 of the Act talks about its title, scope and commencement. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 is the name of this law. Except for Jammu & Kashmir, this law applies to the entire country. Despite the fact that Article 370 has been repealed, all central laws must now be made applicable throughout the country. However, only 37 laws apply to Jammu and Kashmir at the moment, and this Act is not one of them. On October 25, 1980, this law became effective. Its regulations are identical to those found in the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance of 1980.
Section 2: Restrictions on dereservation of forests and its non-forests use
This section prohibits state governments and other authorities from passing legislation in the following areas without first obtaining approval from the federal government:
that they cannot dereserve any forest land or any portion of it during the duration of the law's enforcement in the State or elsewhere;
that forest land, in whole or in part, cannot be exploited for non-forest purposes;
that they cannot lease any forest land or any portion of it to any private person, or any person or organisation not under the jurisdiction of the Government of India;
that a forest land or any part of it that has developed naturally may be cleared for reafforestation.
The word "non-forest purposes" is defined in this section's explanation. It entails cleaning any forest land or a section of it for the following purposes:
Tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plants, or medicinal plants can all be planted.
Or for any other purpose other than afforestation, but not for activity connected to forest and wildlife preservation, evolution, or management.
Section 3: Advisory committee
The central government has the authority under Section 3 of this Act to form an advisory committee to provide advise on topics relating to the Act.
approved in accordance with this Act's Section 2;
or any other matter submitted by the central government that is related to forest preservation.
Section 3A: Penalties
The change made in 1988 adds this Section 3A. According to this section, anyone who violates or aids in the violation of any law in Section 2 is subject to simple imprisonment for any period up to 15 days.
Section 3B: Offences by authorities and government offices
This Section 3B was likewise inserted by the 1988 amendment. This section discusses the wrongdoings of the authorities and government departments.
According to section 3B(1), anytime any offence under this Act is committed by any department of the government, the head of the government, any authority, or any person who was responsible for the conduct of business at the time the offence was committed, they will be held guilty under the Act.
The same individual, on the other hand, can rescue himself by demonstrating that the crime was committed without his knowledge and that he took all reasonable steps to prevent the crime from being committed.
When a person other than the department of the government, the head of the government, or the authority mentioned in sub-section 1 commits an offence under this Act with his consent or due to his negligence, such persons are declared guilty under the Act and are subject to proceedings and punishments, according to section 3B(2).
Section 4: Rulemaking power
By notifying the laws established by this Act in the official gazette, the Central government has the ability to carry them out. Any rule should be presented to both chambers of parliament for thirty days before being implemented. Both houses of parliament must agree to amend or create a new rule as a result of the Act.
Section 5: Repeal
This section of the Act repealed the Forest (Conservation) Ordinance, 1980.
Important case laws
The judiciary has also played a key role in forest conservation and environmental protection by hearing many Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Constitution. While hearing the PILs, the Supreme Court and the High Courts handed down a number of significant rulings on forest and environmental conservation.
Tarun Bharat Singh v. Union of India (1993)
In this case, a non-profit organisation petitioned the Supreme Court via a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The petition was filed in response to illicit mining in the Alwar District's reserved area. Despite the fact that the area was designated as protected under the Act, the state government had issued hundreds of mining permits. The Court ruled that once an area is designated as a protected forest, it is subject to the Forest (Conservation) Act, and that the State government can no longer engage in non-forest activities in the reserved area without first obtaining authorization from the federal government. Because mining is a non-forest activity, the State government's decision to award or renew mining licences is a non-forest decision. Because mining is a non-forest activity, the State government's decision to give a mining licence or renew a mining licence is illegal. The State government and mining owners were also given an interlocutory order to prohibit illegal activity in the designated region.
State of MP v. Krishnadas Tikaram (1994)
In this case, the respondents were given a limestone mining concession in the forest area in 1966 for a duration of 20 years. After it expired in 1986, the respondents petitioned the State government to renew it. The state administration approved the lease renewal for another 20 years. This order was cancelled by the Forest Service. The cancellation was challenged at India's Supreme Court. The Court ruled that under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, the state cannot award or renew the licence without the Central government's prior permission. As a result, the order cancellation was completed correctly.
Krishnadevi Malchand Kamathia v. Bombay Environmental Action (2011)
In this case, the District Collector filed a motion to begin contempt proceedings against the appellants for disobeying the court's orders. The court had ordered the freshly constructed bund to be removed so that seawater could enter and protect the mangrove trees. The order attempted to stop the appellants from doing anything that would destroy the mangrove forests. The appellants have a permit to produce salt at the location. The Supreme Court ruled that salt production through solar evaporation of saltwater is not permissible in the area because of the presence of mangrove trees. Mangrove forests are of considerable ecological importance and are also environmentally sensitive, which is why they are classified as CRZ-I. (Coastal Regulatory Zone-I). The Coastal Area Classification and Development Regulations, 1991 classifies the Coastal Regulatory Zone, and salt manufacture is prohibited under the regulations.
Forests are vital to our environment because they keep the ecological balance in check. However, an alarming rate of deforestation has begun to cause ecological imbalances and harm to our environment across the country. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 was enacted with the goal of protecting forests by limiting deforestation rates.
On October 25, 1980, the Forest (Conservation) Act became law. This Act was enacted to safeguard our country's forests. Forests are an important aspect of our environment because they help to maintain the earth's ecosystem and water cycle. This Act was enacted to protect the environment and our country's forests. This Act also intends to rejuvenate forests in our country by planting trees and increasing forest growth.
The central government is given the authority to create any new rules or changes to current laws under the Act. It has placed constraints on the state government's ability to make any decisions connected to the Act's forest matters without first seeking permission from the federal government.
It also stipulates consequences for individuals who break any of the Act's provisions. The Act also specifies the procedures to be followed when offences are committed by government departments or officials. The Central Government also has the power to form an advisory government to advise the government on forest-related concerns under this Act.