(Environment & Ecology)General Studies Paper 3
Question:- 15. Enumerate the features of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Also, discuss the impacts of the recently proposed amendments in the foreseeable future. Answer in 150 words.
Jul 13, 2022
Answer:-

INTRODUCTION:

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 aimed to regulate the movement of forest produce, and the duty leviable on forest produce. This act has details of what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act. After the Forest Act was enacted in 1865, it was amended twice (1878 and 1927). The penalties and procedures given in this Act aimed to extend the state’s control over forests as well as diminishing the status of people’s rights to forest use. The village communities were alienated from their age-old symbiotic association with forests. Further amendments were also made to restrain the local use of forests mainly by forest-dependent communities.

 

OBJECTIVES:

  1. 1.To consolidate all the previous laws regarding forests.
  2. 2.To give the Government the power to create different classes of forests for their effective usage for the colonial purpose.
  3. 3.To regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  4. 4.To define the procedure to be followed for declaring an area as Reserved Forest, Protected Forest or Village Forest.
  5. 5.To define forest offences acts prohibited inside the Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on the violation.
  6. 6.To make conservation of forests and wildlife more accountable.

 

TYPES OF FORESTS

  • 1.Reserved Forests: most restricted forests
  • 2.Protected Forests: any land other than reserved forests over which the Government has proprietary rights and the power to issue rules regarding the use of such forests can be put under this category. This power has been used to establish State control over trees, whose timber, fruit or other non-wood products have revenue-raising potential.
  • 3.Village forest: Village forests are the one in which the State Government may assign to ‘any village community the rights of Government to or over any land which has been constituted a reserved forest’.

Degree of protection

Reserved forests > Protected forests > Village forests

Forest Settlement Officer

The Forest Settlement Office is appointed, by the State government, to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprising a Reserved forest. He/she is empowered even to acquire land over which right is claimed.

 

THE AMENDMENT:

To speed up resolution of forest-related violations -the amendments are aimed at decriminalising “relatively minor violations” of law. The amendments seek to decriminalise offences like kindling, keeping or carrying fire in a reserved forest without permission, trespassing or pasturing cattle or causing any damage by negligence in felling any tree in a reserved forest. They also seek to decriminalise acts like leaving a burning fire kindled by the person in the vicinity of any tree reserved under Section 30, or felling any tress or dragging timber to damage any reserved tree, or permitting cattle to damage such tree. The offences were earlier punishable with imprisonment for a term which could even extend to six months, a penalty that the Environment Ministry now seeks to remove.

This would help in:

  1. 1.expeditious resolution of complaints,
  2. 2.reduce compliance burden on citizens,
  3. 3.rationalize penalties, and
  4. 4.subsequently prevent harassment of citizens as imprisonment for such offences has never actually taken place, and is often used as a tool of harassment.

However, there are the following concerns associated:

  1. 1.The provision of imprisonment, whether actually carried out or not, acts as a deterrent. This amendment will, instead incentivize offenses, especially that of felling trees which is extremely dangerous.
  2. 2.The Centre does not have the jurisprudence to carry out amendments in the Act, as it does not fall under the Central government, having been enacted before Parliament was established. Instead, the Act is adopted by states as they feel fit. Only Haryana, Punjab, MP, Bengal and Bihar actually follow the Act. Other states have their own forest Acts. So the Centre’s move is actually an infringement on the rights of the states.