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Supreme Court's Interim Order: Forest Act Amendment



  Feb 21, 2024

Supreme Court's Interim Order: Forest Act Amendment



Supreme Court’s Interim Order on Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023

1. What does the Supreme Court’s interim order on the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, entail?

The Supreme Court has mandated that the identification of forest land in all states and Union Territories must adhere to the “dictionary definition” of forests. This broader definition aims to ensure more comprehensive protection of forest lands, reversing the narrowing of definitions allowed by the 2023 Amendment. Additionally, any plans to construct zoos or wildlife safaris in forest areas now require prior approval from the Supreme Court.

2. Why is the Supreme Court’s order considered a temporary relief for environmentalists?

The order is seen as a temporary relief because it suspends the implementation of certain provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, which environmentalists argue reduce the protection of forest lands by narrowing the definition of what constitutes a forest. The broader definition reinstated by the court ensures that more land can be protected under forest conservation laws.

3. What was the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act, 2023, trying to change?

The Act aimed to redefine what constitutes forest land, specifying that only lands notified or recorded as forests in the Indian Forest Act or any government record after 1980 would be protected under this Act. Critics argued that this change would leave a significant portion of India’s forest lands unprotected and susceptible to non-forest uses and commercial exploitation.

4. How does the interim order affect the identification and protection of forest land?

By reverting to the original, broader definition of forests, as defined in the TN Godavarman ruling of 1996, the order ensures that more land can be identified and protected as forest land. This move is seen as critical for the conservation of India’s diverse ecosystems and for preventing the unchecked diversion of forest lands for commercial purposes.

5. What implications does the order have for the construction of zoos and wildlife safaris in forest areas?

The Supreme Court’s order adds a layer of scrutiny to the construction of zoos and wildlife safaris in forest areas by requiring prior approval from the court. This measure aims to safeguard forest lands from being diverted for such projects without thorough examination of their environmental impacts, ensuring that conservation remains a priority.

6. What is the significance of the TN Godavarman ruling mentioned in the order?

The TN Godavarman ruling of 1996 is a landmark judgment that expanded the definition of forests and forest lands under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It stated that the Act applies to all forests, irrespective of ownership or classification, thus broadening the scope of forest conservation in India. The Supreme Court’s interim order reaffirms this definition, emphasizing the need for a wide-ranging approach to identifying and protecting forest lands.

SRIRAM’s


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