Introduction to Forest Conservation Case and its importance
The Indian Forest Act of 1927 does not define forests, though forest areas have been legally notified under it as reserve forest, protected forest or village forest. The watershed Forest Conservation Act of 1980 made central government approval mandatory before diverting forestland for non-forest use.
The debate over defining a forest came to the fore in 1996 with the Supreme Court ruling in the case of TN Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India. (1997(2)SCC267) The case began as a petition to stop illegal felling of timber in the Nilgiri hills but expanded into an overhaul of the Indian forest policy. The Supreme Court said that forests would be defined by their “dictionary meaning”, without elaborating what this meaning was. It also assumed responsibility for implementing the Forest Conservation Act with this new definition.
The court ordered all non-forest activity like sawmills and mining to be suspended in forest areas and stopped felling of trees. It kept the Godavarman case open using the device of a “continuing mandamus” and heard hundreds of matters related to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act. The ruling excluded the lower courts from admitting such application, leaving the Supreme Court the sole administrator of the law when it came to forest matters. This was until the creation of the National Green Tribunal in 2010 to “dispose of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources”.
While the apex court has been both commended for taking such dramatic action to stop indiscriminate destruction of forests and criticised for overstepping its boundaries, the Godavarman case has gone on to show how essential it is to define forests. In its 1996 ruling, the court had asked states to identify, demarcate and notify forest areas. Even 18 years later, many states have failed to do so. While hearing a case in 2014 of whether a hotmix plant should be allowed to operate in Manda Khal village in Uttarakhand, the National Green Tribunal noted the state government’s failure to chalk out its deemed forests.
- Explain the genesis and development of Supreme Courts role in forest governance.
- To study T.N. Godavarman series of cases and their impact on the forest protection
- Part IV of the Constitution of India
- Environment Protection Act, 1986
- Forest Act, 1927
- Forest (Conservation )Act, 1980
This paper is made through Descriptive Research Methodology. Help of various resources has been taken to make the project which is being mentioned below:
- Research paper
- Case laws
- Online articles